How deep can roots really grow? How much surface area can exude carbon and feed microbes? Amoebae, flagellates, ciliates, nematodes, and other mesofauna, earthworms, and all of the microbial predators in the soil seek out this root-catered microbial network. In exchange, predators poop out nutrients right at the root surface. In this world, there is no place for fertilizers, pesticides, or tilling. Only nutrient-dense food on pest-resistant plants and miles and miles of carbon storage below the surface.

My students around the globe use Dr. Elaine Ingham's methods to experimentally test the benefits of restoring the biology in a soil food web as they train to become Soil Consultants.

Soil Biology

  Portland State University  |  Dr. Daniel Ballhorn


Keywords: Plant defense | nitrogen-fixing rhizobia | tritrophic interactions | Phasolus lunatus

Coercing insects to carry genetic material from one plant to another has resulted in many creative adaptations. Plants in the Arum genus often trap dung-seeking pollinators by producing heat and volatilizing feces-like fragrances. Our aim is to measure the evolutionary consequences of the chemical ecology involved in this outcrossing strategy: deceptive pollination.



  Université de Neuchâtel  |  Dr. Sergio Rasmann

Keywords: Plant-insect interactions | volatile organic compounds | Arum maculatum


Soil Food Web School  |  Soil Consultant Training Program Mentor

Keywords: Carbon storage |  fungal to bacterial biomass | eliminate fertilizers and pesticides

Plant families able to form a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, such as legumes with rhizobia, are relatively rare, but occur in most terrestrial ecosystems. Legume-rhizobia symbioses have been long-recognized to play critical roles in geochemical cycling and plant productivity, acclaimed as ecosystem engineers and keystone species. Gaining organic nitrogen (N) in exchange for photo-assimilated carbon (C) aids plants in overcoming soil nitrogen limitations, relevant both ecologically and agriculturally.  


How does symbiotic resource exchange influence food webs beyond plant productivity? How do rhizobia influence aboveground food webs from the bottom-up by mediating plant defense chemistry and tritrophic interactions?