Soil Health and Compost Tea with Dr. Elaine Ingham – May 2015

The Soil Health connection is one of the most important topics in agriculture today.  As an agricultural community we have spent many years abusing our lands with no thought to building soil or unfortunately our future or the next generation.  Soil is the biggest capital any producer has, far more than their crops or livestock.  Dr. Elaine Ingham is on a mission to not just research healthy soils and how to heal sick land but also to share that knowledge with the rest of us who can implement and benefit from her findings.

​In this training we talk about soil health and compost tea and how to utilize the tools at hand to grow soil on your property.

Here is a sample of this 2 hour training where Dr. Ingham talks about What is the definition of Soil?

Professional Background -- Current

Dr. Elaine Ingham is currently Found of President and Director of Research for Soil Foodweb Inc., a business that grew out of her Oregon State University research program and Her research is on:.

-- What organisms are present in the soil and on the foliage of your plants?

-- Which organisms benefit which types of plants?

-- Which organisms harm plants?

-- How can these organisms be managed to grow plants with the least expensive inputs into the system while maintaining soil fertility?

Behind her user-friendly approach lies a wealth of knowledge gained from years of research into the organisms which make up the soil food web. Her goal is to translate this knowledge into actions that ensure a healthy food web that promotes plant growth and reduces reliance on inorganic chemicals. Elaine also offers a pioneering vision for sustainable farming, improving our current soils to a healthier state, without damaging any other ecosystem.

In this excerpt from Dr. Ingham's training she talks about One Indicator of Soil Health.

Professional Background – Earlier Years

From 1996 to the present, at Soil Foodweb, Inc., Elaine has developed three new methods of rapidly assessing soil and foliage-related organisms, and assessing how soil and foliar biology changes with different management practices. She has focused on grower-related issues, the expense of intensive chemical use, and the damage these chemicals inflict on beneficial organisms in the soil and on foliage.

From 2011 to 2014 She was the Chief Scientist for the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania.

In the year 2000, Elaine opened a new lab at Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia, allowing grower’s overnight access to the assays they need to improve plant production without the use of high levels of inorganic chemicals.

From the mid-1980’s to the mid-1990’s, Elaine was a Faculty Member in Forest Science and Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University. Here, she created and presented speeches nationally on the soil foodweb.

In 1991, Elaine opened a service called the Soil Microbial Biomass Service, offering researchers and commercial clients the ability to have soil samples analyzed for soil foodweb organisms.

In 1985, Elaine was awarded a Research Associate Fellowship at the University of Georgia.

Key Accomplishments

1. Her biological products collaboration with Lyndon Smith, Wayne Woodward and Jim Johnson of Huma-Gro and with Tom Piatkowski of Helena Chemical Company is leading the way for understanding which bio-stimulant products work best, and how much material is needed to achieve desired improvements in soil organism functions.

2. Work with Ken Warner of Frontier Industries and Ron Stewart of Columbia Gorge Organics on how to make the best humus material possible: establishing biological components of the foodweb, giving the biology the foods needed, achieving long-term benefits for plant growth.

3. Working with Holmes Enviro, Lab, offering a new assay using selective media and molecular methods to identify whether twenty of the most beneficial bacteria are present in your soil, compost or compost tea

4. International work on compost tea, improving the understanding of how to properly manage thermally-produced compost, vermicompost, and compost tea, to guarantee disease-suppressive, soil-building, nutrient-retaining composts and compost teas.

5. Extensive work on genetically engineered organism issues with the Edmond’s Institute, a non-governmental organization,) directed by Beth Burrows. Strong advocacy of sound ecological testing of all genetically-engineered organisms before they are released into the environment.

6. Maintaining a website whose URL is where the results of research at Soil Foodweb Inc. and the Oregon State University are posted.

7. Her current projects range from working in citrus groves in Florida, to cotton and avocado in Australia, turf and golf courses, internationally, roadside restoration in California and just about every other plant system in between.

Professional Background

Elaine started her academic career at St. Olaf College with a B.A., Biology and Chemistry, cum laude, in 1974. She later earned an M.S. in Microbiology at Texas A & M University and her Doctorate in Microbiology, (with an emphasis in soil,) from Colorado State University.

Elaine was offered Post-doctoral Fellowship in Zoology from the Natural Resource Ecology Lab at Colorado State University.


In her spare time, Elaine publishes scientific papers, writes book chapters and gives talks at meetings and symposia around the world. Attendance at Elaine’s courses is always very high given her depth of knowledge and dynamic presentation style, as well as being a world-renown leader in research of the soil food web.

Elaine and her husband Russ (who also has a Doctorate from Colorado State University in Zoology, emphasizing nematology,) live in Corvallis Oregon.


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