Soil Food Web flowchart

Soil Ecosystem – How it works

SymSoil RC contains bacteria, fungi (hyphea on the right), amoebae, nematodes (lower left), humic acids (the golden materials), biochar and organic matter.

Soil Nerds may be disadvantaged versus Tech Nerds, since in Silicon Valley there are many who speak “Tech Nerd Code”, and those who speak “Soil Nerd Code” are part of the nascent Regenerative Agriculture movement. RegenAg is the next step in the transition from organic farming, to sustainable produce, to to locally focused food. Nevertheless, we plunge on … this chart, while not as memorable as the classic Soil Food Web graphic is a good representation, in plain English, of how the soil microbe ecosystem functions to feed plants.

Healthy soil has 10,000’s of species: bacteria, fungi, amoebae, flagellates, other protozoa, nematodes, earthworms and microscopic insects.  The soil microbe biome has much in common with the gut microbe biome, and organic matter feeds each component. Sometimes referred to as the Soil Food Web, this complex living system is how nature intended plants to get their nutrients.

Soil Food Web flowchart
The Soil Food Web has components that cover multiple orders of magnitude. This flowchart captures the role of each component.

The plants extrude sugars and other chemicals, which encourage the growth of bacteria and fungi. These bind the minerals and nutrients, and when they are consumed by the higher trophic levels (the wee critters that eat the bacteria and fungi), this releases the nutrients in a plant available form.

In contrast, commodity compost, what your local nursery or large composter sells, is food for the microbes. In an effort to kill pathogens, their manufacturing process essentially cooks the decomposing material, and kills everything … effectively sterilizing their product.  If a mainstream composter is are lucky enough to have the beneficial microorganisms go dormant, as done when Robust Compost is manufactured by skilled craftsmen who understand the soil food web (SFW), their equipment kills the rest. 

The last step in large scale composting is to screen the material for size, which kills the protozoa and beneficial nematodes. These are the higher trophic levels of the soil microbe biome which release the nutrients in the plant available form.

Soil Food Web, classic graphic from USDA Website

SymSoil contains all of the microscopic forms of life in healthy soil.  We manage this with a patent (pending) process. Basically, we treat the beneficial microbes gently and provide them with the optimal environment to grow, reproduce and remain available to improve soil health for our customers.

Robust Compost is  a complex community of soil microbes, in a solid transport medium.  The soil microbe biome is a complete ecosystem and is the equivalent to the human gut biome for plants.  It was originally described, in the academic literature by Dr. Elaine Ingham, as the Soil Food Web.

 About SymSoil

SymSoil Inc., a Benefit Corporation (B), is a leader in development of biological soil amendments for agriculture that restores the microbes that provide the right food to the plant roots, improving plant health, and making food more tasty and nutrient dense, the way nature intended. These indigenous crop and regional soil specific microbes regenerate the soil significantly increasing crop yields and nutrient density in food. For more information please contact us at or  call 833-SYMSOIL (833-796-7645)

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