Praktijkworkshop: 11 maart 2016: Opening in verdichte bodems (Dutch)

Bruisend bodemleven: opening in verdichte bodems

  • Locatie: 11 maart 2016, Aardehuis, Olst
  • Door Fransjan de Waard en Ruben Borge

Het leven in de bodem is onmisbaar, onschatbaar – en nog vrijwel onbekend. Ook voor mensen die met de bodem werken, zoals boeren, groenbeheerders en hobbytuinders.IMG_20151029_110404

Nieuw is ook dat een boost voor het bodemleven cruciaal is in de aanpak van bodemverdichting.

Een ‘grondig’ probleem dat veel beter voorkomen kan worden, maar dat met de klimaatverandering zeker nog verder zal groeien. In de workshop “BRUISEND BODEMLEVEN: opening in verdichte bodems” draait het om de principes èn de praktijk. Deelnemers worden meegenomen in de aftrap van een integrale oplossing voor de verslemping en wateroverlast op de zware kleigrond ter plekke.

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Life is back

Only one month after soil aeration in Raerd with the Evers plow, we find new signs of life are visible in the soil more root growth, earth worms, insects. We also see the effects of their work in the channels they leave in the soil. Soil drains better now

How we made it:

  1. Visual soil Assessment. This gave us an idea about what were the key constraints that affected the gras production. Heavy clay soils of Raerd need to be managed to allow root forming and avoid soil compaction.
  2. Assess the land and water management. We saw that with the current land management, the soil will tend to compact and create an environment with little air and water exchange. This environment would  stress the root and compromise the grass production.
  3. Designed a new fertility plan that include building soil structure in permanent grassland with structural help of the vertical plow. This use will compensate the imbalances of the use of machinery. Once the right soil conditions are created to allow successful biological settlement and nutrient cycle.



Where the t(r)ees go green

During the construction of the Dirkshorn golf club the soil got destroyed by heavy machinery. After their work, engineers and bulldozers left a inert substrate where plants and especially had difficulties to grow.

Trees and shrubs are very important part of the course because they mark the field that players have to follow. After the first season more than half of the planted trees died or suffered severe damage. Supporting those trees with chemical fertilizers was not feasible. On the other hand a golf court generates a tremendous amount of green waste that need to be disposed. Getting rid of this waste is a cost.

Rockin Soils assists the the golf club and Grondmij, the company in charge of maintenance, to produce organic fertilizers from the organic waste to feed the young trees. Self made solid and liquid fertilizers inject indigenous forest life in the soils, improve their structure, re-mineralize them and restore the ecosystem that supports the settlement of the trees.

The pilots started in April 2013. From august 2013 until September 2013, the trees received three applications. Several tests are also carried out on grass of greens and tees. Results of the pilot are expected in the spring of 2014.

Lab-less soil check

Farmers that keep their soils fit require less inputs and assume less financial risks. Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) help farmers to determine the condition of their soils without lab.

When it comes to farming, Improving soil has the highest return on investment. Knowing the soil and how to interact with it has top priority for the farmer of the future.


Knowledge is out there…

Nowadays practical knowledge of the soil is int in the farm. It is segmented among a cloud of consultants. These consultants are linked to commercial firms that sell agricultural inputs. They never get the hands dirty but they know how to link soil analysis to the products they sell. Independent consultants have little place in this market of free advice and expensive products. After 60 years of industrial agriculture knowledge is gone it only remains sales. As consequence, farmers do not have objective information. Visual Soil Analysis (VSA) provide direct and objective information to farmers about the soil and help to make integrated decissions to improve the farmer’s natural capital.

Farming or paperwork?

To know about soil, modern farmers rely on lab analysis. They put the soil sample in a bag, fill a form and send both things to the lab by post. It is easy.Lab soil analysis reports contain a long list of parameters. These parameters mean nothing if they aren’t are interpreted by consultants that know that is normal and what not. These consultants live far away from the farm and have never seen it. They work for farmers but spend more than 90% of their time in the lab among computers and coffee dispensers.

With these soil analysis other consultants and fertilizer re-sellers make fertilization schedules. This second type of consultants know more about products. they see chemical deficiencies and put a combination of commercial product behind to solve the problem. They also live far away from the farm. They do not even see the soil samples. It is just paperwork. At the end farmers get a pile of papers, numbers invoice and no recomendations but a shopping list to put some tons/ha of this and many other tons/ha of that. They buy the products and contract laborers to apply them. Nobody knows what happen in the soil until the next season time farmer goes to the lab with another bag, and gets the next shopping list. If the soil would get any better, we might expect that the shopping list shorter is or the costs go down but the experience tell us that during the last 60 years the inputs only go up and yields only go down.

The European “modern” farmer is so busy paying bills and applying for subsidies, that he/she has little time to farm. He/She has little time to have a look in the soil and to realize that mainly bad soil is a synonymous of a hole in the pocket. The main productive factor of agriculture is forgotten.

Farmers can do it themselves

Any farmer that work close to their land know when a soil is good or when it is in trouble. They perceive the tinniest differences in performance. But often, they cannot point to the causes and rely on external expertise.CIMG3866

The VSA was developed in New Zealand by Mr Graham Shepherd. With a Shovel and a field guide, they can survey the soil tehmselves with their own eyes. VSA gives insight about:

  • Soil Organic content
  • Structure
  • Soil life
  • Root development
  • Hard pan
  • Land cover
  • pH
  • Redox

Rockin Soils works to test this method in the Dutch dairy farms. In the Netherlands VSA is called Bodem Contitie Score (BCS). At this moment VSA helps Duth dairy farmers to assess the condition of grass and maize in the area of the Beemster to improve the soils.

Be the first to know your soil

If you want to learn to asses your soil, to start improving the natural fertility, you can contact rockinsoils.

More about VSA, visit

Rocks 4 Life

The art of dissolving rocks to feed plants is a basic skill any farmer must have to produce a lot healthy crops for a long time. Volcanic rock dust is the source of many minerals that most of our soils are missing.  Because the soils miss the minerals, the plants miss them too and so do our cattle and so do we.

If we put rock dust directly in the soils it works as soil amendment but it has slow results on plant nutrition.  Before rocks can feed plants, they need to be transformed by the microbiology of the soils. They have to be made bio-available.   DSCN1047

How to get rocks:

Many rock mixtures can be bought at special agricultural stores. When a mineral has good potential application for agriculture it is labelled as agro-mineral. Rock dust suppliers take the best agro-minerals and mix them in different proportions to create their commercial recipes. What make a rock good for the crops?

The most fertile soils on earth are volcanic soils. they have the highest mineral diversity. Basically the most important factor of a rock to improve soils is the diversity of minerals, in the right proportions in a way that they allow they support the development of life in the soil. The more mineral diversity in the rocks we use, the more elements of the periodic table will be able to be embodied in a bacteria or fungi, passing to the soil food web the more fertile the soil is.  One of the rocks with more mineral diversity are the basaltic rocks.

How to dissolve minerals:

Rocks in soils undergo a serie of processes before they release minerals. The first process is erosion, then it comes the bio-assimilation. The process of erosion and bio-assimilation take thousands of years. We can mimic this process and accelerate the mineral release and take advantage of it (biomimicry). We mimic erosion when we crush rocks.


We mimic the natural bio assimilation in the soils when we put soil microorganisms in contact with rock dust. Bacteria, fungi and yeasts use organic acids and enzymes that extract minerals from rocks. 

Dissolving rocks with microorganisms in own farm does not require high investments nor complicated technology. Small Bio-digesters can be mounted in reduced spaces where experimenting is easy and affordable to any farmer.


The art of reproducing microorganisms to dissolve minerals from rocks is a simple but powerful tool in hands of farmers. It can bring fertility to soils an accelerate the chemical and biological rehabilitation of exhausted soils.

It is a strategy that any farmer can experience. In my vegetable garden, I produce and test my fertilizers on a small scale. I test them in vegetables and fruit trees. If I like the results, scaling-up is always possible.

Thousands of farmers in South America know how to make their own rock dust based fertilizers and are able to feed their crops. They do not depend from external inputs but they increase production and quality of their products and leave better soils for their children.

Please, give me broken flowers

Dutch flower farmers in Ethiopia work with local miners to re-mineralize exhausted soils and use farm waste to make organic fertilizers.

Rocking Soils works in Dutch-Ethiopian flower farms.  These farms operate often in erosive soils with low fertility levels. Fertilizer is their largest production cost. At the same time they face problems to process their organic waste. The quality standards of the flower export market are high. More than 30% of the produced flowers are broken or damaged in some way and are rejected at the farm. More flowers break on their way to the airport and will not reach Europe.


Finding good cheap resources to feed soil’s system is a profitable venture. Composting broken flowers is a new trend. Compost enriched with rock dust improves the soil quality of these farms and minimize the need for other inputs to correct nutrient deficiencies and combat pests.

In Holleta, we work at a 25 ha farm employing 550 Ethiopian workers. The farm produces Hypericum, Eryngium and Hydrangea and is implementing a program to produce most of their inputs by composting and fermenting waste and prepare mineral solutions.  This program will improve soil fertility, reduce costs and create a toxic-free working environment. More and more Dutch and Ethiopian farmers see the returns of this system.

The impact of this project goes beyond the borders of the farm. Each of the 550 workers have small family farms back home. Family farms are the backbone of the local food supply chain. These farmers are learning to use local resources to grow their food and feed their families with healthy and affordable food.