Biology of Soil in Canada

There are billions of organisms in every spoonful of soil, and they are very important to maintain the chemical environment of our world. Soil is the base resource of all food on the planet. It is a limited resource that requires extra care and management to ensure a healthy agricultural sector. Learn about how Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists have been working with producers for the past century to manage and preserve our soils.

This video is the second in a series of five videos on the subject of soils which were produced to celebrate the International Year of the Soils.

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Video Transcript

[An image and a maple leaf appear on screen. This is the title graphic for the video.]

[Light, electronic music fades in.]

Text on screen: Biology of Soil in Canada

[The video opens with a close up shot of someone working in a garden and removing weeds.]

Dr. Claudia Goyer: Soil is the home of a large variety of organisms...

[Cut to a shot of a woman swearing a lab coat and sitting in a laboratory. She is speaking slightly off camera.]

Text on screen: Dr. Claudia Goyer, Molecular Bacteriologist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

...going from really large ones like insects and nematodes and earthworms...

[Cut to a shot of microscopic shot of bacteria moving around the frame.]

...to the very small like bacteria and fungi.

[Cut to a series of still shots of soil and soils in the hands of a person.]

Narrator: There are billions of organisms in every spoonful of soil. That means that there are more organisms in a spoonful of soil than there are people on the planet. They are very small but they are very important to maintain the chemical environment of our world.

[Cut to a shot of a potato field in bloom. The plants are blowing in the wind.]

[Cut to a close up shot of some of the flowers on the potato plants.]

[Cut to a close up shot of ants moving around on top of soil.]

Dr. Claudia Goyer: Soils are actually quite alive.

[Cut to a shot of many earth worms moving around on top of soil.]

Organisms play a big role in soils.

[Cut back to a shot of Dr. Claudia Goyer sitting in a laboratory.]

They basically affect the chemical, the physical...

[Cut to a slow motion shot of someone picking up a handful of soil and allowing it to fall through their fingers.]

...and the biochemical properties of soil.

[Cut back to a shot of Dr. Claudia Goyer sitting in a laboratory.]

Basically, all organisms are involved in recycling.

[Cut to an extreme close up of a very small organism moving around inside soil.]

The process starts with larger organisms that will break down plant residue...

[Cut back to a shot of Dr. Claudia Goyer sitting in a laboratory.]

...and animal waste into smaller fragments and then the microorganism will further break down these bigger fragments into nutrients...

[Cut to a shot of wheat blowing in the wind.]

...that can be...

[Cut to a close up shot of the same wheat blowing in the wind.]

...taken up by plants.

[Cut back to a shot of Dr. Claudia Goyer sitting in a laboratory.]

They play a vital role in keeping our soil really healthy...

[Cut to a shot of a huge field of canola blowing in the wind. The canola is in bloom so the whole field appears bright yellow.]

...and ensuring that we're having a really good crop.

[Cut to a shot of a man in a lab coat standing in a laboratory.]

Text on screen: Dr. Martin Chantigny, Scientist, Soil Biochemistry and Nutrient Cycling, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Martin Chantigny: Agricultural practices such as soil tillage, fertilization and crop rotation...

[Cut to a shot of a tractor tilling a field.]

...affect the abundance and functioning of soil organisms.

[Cut to a different shot of the same tractor tilling the same field.]

Dr. Claudia Goyer: And all of those organisms very important for ecosystem functioning.

[Cut back to the shot of Dr. Martin Chantigny standing in the laboratory.]

Dr. Martin Chantigny: Soil biological activity is active at temperatures well below freezing.

[Cut to a shot of a vineyard on a bright sunny day in the middle of winter.]

Breakdown of plant material, manure, fertilizer, continues throughout winter...

[Cut back to the shot of Dr. Martin Chantigny standing in the laboratory.]

..which affects nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon levels in soil and their fate in the ecosystem.

[Cut to a shot of wheat blowing in the wind in the middle of a snow storm. Snow covers the ground behind the plants.]

Nutrient loses during winter may represent up to 90% total annual loses...

[Cut to a close up shot of wheat in the middle of winter. The head on the plant is almost completely covered in snow.]

...which is far from being negligible.

[Cut back to the shot of Dr. Martin Chantigny standing in the laboratory.]

This has an implication that the impact of fall application of manure and fertilizer may have on the environment.

[Cut to a shot of Dr. Claudia Goyer and an assistant in a field in the middle of winter taking samples from underneath the snow.]

Our goal is to develop farm management practices...

[Cut to a close up shot of Dr. Claudia Goyer extracting a sample from the frozen ground.]

...that maximize retention of nutrients in the soil during winter...

[Cut to a shot of Dr. Claudia Goyer examining a sample through a microscope in her lab.]

...so we have a minimal impact on the environment and maximize the benefits to the next crop.

[Cut to a close up shot of the petrie dish that Dr. Claudia Goyer is examining.]

[Cut to a shot of a person putting dried pasta into a pot of boiling water.]

Narrator: These organisms are very important...

[Cut to a shot of a mother putting dinner on the table. Her daughter is at the table pouring juice into her glass.]

...to get more food on our table.

[Cut to a close up shot of a salad with shredded carrots and chick peas.]

They are fundamentally essential to our life.

[Cut back to the shot of the mother and her daughter at the table. The mother is spooning out pasta onto her daughter’s plate.]

Learn more about soil sciences in Canada with our other videos on the chemistry, physics, and nutrients in soils.

[Fade to white.]

[Fade up from white.]

[The logo for the 2015 International Year of Soils fades up.]

Text on screen: 2015 International Year of Soils, http://www.fao.org/soils-2015, #IYS2015

[Cut to the end graphic for the video.]

Text on screen: Modern. Innovative. Growing. Discover other agricultural innovations at www.agr.gc.ca

[Cut to the animated Canada wordmark.]

Text on screen. Canada. (c) Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2015)

[Light, electronic music fades out.]

[Fade to black.]

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