Elaine Ingham on why healthy soils don’t need rotations


In this episode with Dr. Elaine Ingham, world’s foremost soil biologist and founder of Dr. Elaine’s Soil Food Web, we discussed about soils.

What do you know about soils? Not nearly enough!
Learn more with Elaine Ingham about nematodes, bacteria, fungi, who are “the good guys and the bad guys”, why healthy soils don’t need rotations, how plants actually feed themselves and why you don’t need expensive chemical inputs that just benefit the input companies.


Misconceptions in Soil

While working on her PhD, she learnt from traditional researchers that bacteria and fungi are not important as they do not do anything for the soil. Dr. Ingham refuted this claim in her research. She found 15 to 16 species of bacteria and a couple of species of fungi to work with.

“Many people still do the same, exactly that of soil scientists who haven’t read a book since they left graduate school. They’re still mired back in this inappropriate understanding of what’s actually going on in soil. They have no clue. When I asked those people about this thing that I’m going to work on the bacteria and the fungi in soil, they said, they don’t really do anything.” – Dr. Elaine Ingham

Bacteria and Fungi in Soil

Ingham’s husband worked with her in studying bacteria and fungi in soil. They took soil, sterilized it, and started adding an organism group to see the effects it had on the plant.

“There is no soil on this planet that lacks the nutrients to grow plants. They are these biological interactions that release those nutrients in a plant-available form.” – Dr. Elaine Ingham

Bio Complete Compost

Elaine and her team developed the Bio Complete Compost, where they let organisms do the changes in the soil. They teach farmers the right recipe in growing the “good guys” or good bacteria and fungi. 

“We teach people how to grow the “good guys”, just by controlling the conditions in your compost pile, the initial starting materials that you put into that compost pile. Compost is not made by throwing a bunch of organic matter together in a pile and leaving it for a while. If you want to compost, you’ve got all these organisms and the organisms you want. You’ve got to put in the correct recipe that we’ll select for the growth of what you need.” – Dr. Elaine Ingham

Listening to Mother Nature

Dr. Ingham’s research and company battle against the use of pesticides. They are teaching farmers how to increase their yields while not having to pay for the pesticides, the herbicides, the inorganic fertilizers, as well as not needing to till their property every year.

“Well, it is kind of classic measures of plant health. Are there a lot of diseases in this property that says that they’re going for sustainable methods? You can’t be sustainable if you’re constantly battling pests and disease fungi and root-knot nematodes and all the bad guys. That’s not sustainable. You can’t be sustainable if you’ve got a lot of weeds that come up every year. You’re not paying attention to the messages that Mother Nature is sending.” – Dr. Elaine Ingham

Barriers of Soil Research

The switch from academia to starting her own company and working with farmers for her research was not an easy road. She received a lot of discouragement especially about funding to support research. After butting heads with several people in the academic world, she shares her realization about soil people and experts and what role money plays to gain their support for her research. 

“I realized then that the reason why none of these soil people, the agronomists, the plant biologists, the botanists, all of those people were interested was that there was no source of money for them to switch to understanding nature. There was no company that would give them the grants, that would give them the funding. Whereas things were, all these chemical companies are out there. They don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. They don’t want to destroy the cash cow. They didn’t want to hear this and I was kind of relegated to the back row not getting any financial support and not getting any ability to get a plot on the research farm.” – Dr. Elaine Ingham 

To learn more about Dr. Elaine Ingham and the importance of soil, download, and listen to this episode. 

Guest Bio:

Dr. Ingham discovered the soil food web nearly 4 decades ago and has been pioneering research ever since.  Widely recognized as the world’s foremost soil biologist, she’s passionate about empowering ordinary people to bring the soils in their community back to life. Dr. Elaine’s™ Soil Food Web Approach has been used to successfully restore the ecological functions of soils on six continents. 

The courses offered by Dr. Elaine’s™ Soil Food Web School have been designed for people with no relevant experience – making them accessible to individuals who wish to retrain and to begin a meaningful and impactful career in an area that will help to secure the survival of humans and other species.


Soil Food Web


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4 comments on “Elaine Ingham on why healthy soils don’t need rotations

  1. Rick Cameron says:

    Please nominate this lady for the Nobel Peace Prize not only for her bravery but for bringing peace to our soil’s living biology by teaching ” do no harm” ! Thank you both for your generosity.

    1. Koenvanseijen says:

      Hi Rick,
      Thank you so much for your comment (and sorry for the late reply!)

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