Week 2, The Community Compost School: the Soil Food Web & the Mighty Mushroom

Thank you to Marc Siepman & Wouter Hassing for wonderfully informative & engaging lectures on week 2 of the Green Living Lab’s Community Compost School!

 Marc Siepman introduced us to the diversity of organisms that make up the Soil Food Web & explained how this interdependent web is responsible for healthy plant life. From bacteria, algae, fungi & protozoa, to nematodes, earthworms, insects & plants, these organisms decompose organic matter, cycle nutrients, enhance soil structure & control populations of crop pests.

 Marc explained how soil organic matter is made up of humus & active organic matter. Soil organisms work to convert active organic matter into humus & humus can hold carbon in the soil in a stable way for decades or even centuries. If soil is continuousy disturbed this interrupts the natural process of active organic matter being converted into humus & triggers some soil organisms to convert active organic matter to CO2. This CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere causing pollution, instead of being captured in the soil. Looking after our soil by adding organic matter & proper soil management is essential for a healthy local environment & local food system.

The good news is that we can all make a difference by converting our organic waste into compost & return this compost to the soil for local food production.

For info on Marc’s upcoming courses & lectures, as well as information on his innovative moneyless farm project Meenderij see: www.marcsiepman.nl

Mark introduced us to the important role of fungi in creating & maintaining healthy soil. We heard how fungi like to break down complex organic compounds in the soil including wood, fibrous plant residues & humus. Then mycologist Wouter Hassing told us more about the functions & incredible intelligence of fungi & mycelium.

Wouter is the founder of Mycophilia, a bio-technology R & D organisation that researches how mycelium & fungi can be used for environmental controls against pollution & to make healthy soil for local food production. Wouter & his partner Marijke also grow delicious shiitake & oyster mushrooms & offer grow-kits to grow your own mushrooms at home!

For more info see: www.mycophilia.nl

Thanks to Wouter for sharing the animated short film, Underground Market with us, by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU) researcher Toby Kiers. This film provides a fascinating insights into the interaction & trading between fungal hyphae & plant roots. Toby’s research focuses on how cooperation between species evolves & how cooperation is affected by a rapidly changing world. For more info on her research please see: www.tobykiers.com

Wouter shared expert tips on growing fungi at home & gave everyone a shiitake mushroom grow-kit to take home & get growing. Did you know that mushrooms are still alive after they are harvested? Therefore keeping them in their preferred conditions ensures they stay fresh for longer & retain more nutritional value. Prolong the freshness of mushrooms at home by wrapping them in a wet towel & keep them in the fridge at a temperature of 2 degrees.

There is still time to participate in our Community Compost School programme. Look out for your chance to take part in upcoming events & workshops including;

28 October: The Community Composting Bike Tour with Le Compostier. An action-packed tour of community composting projects throughout Amsterdam where you will meet community composting pioneers in their neighbourhoods or in community gardens & get the chance to ask them questions to learn from their experience. You’ll have the chance to visit some of the most beautiful urban gardens in the city & taste some delicious local organic produce. Advance registration is required: info@greenlivingab.org

11 November: The Circular Economy Hackathon! In collaboration with the circular economy consultancy Circle EconomyEnactus VU & local food waste initiative Taste Before You Waste, we invite you to ‘hack’ our local food system by thinking creatively about circular economy solutions.

More details coming soon!