Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Biology (MS)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Donna Maki


The rapid loss of topsoil, biodiversity, and water quality across agricultural land in the United States and the industrialized world poses some of the most important risks to the future of global and domestic food security. Not only is arable land being lost at an unsustainable pace, but the average age of farmers has also steadily been rising due to a myriad of barriers young, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), and beginning farmers face. In an attempt to address these issues, worm castings, bokashi tea, fish hydrolysate, and biochar were applied alone and in combination to an extremely degraded soil system at Northern Michigan University’s Agricultural Field Plot. These amendments can all be made with very limited monetary input while providing a significant amount of nutrients, and microbial diversity to the soil. Overall plant biomass, culturable microbial diversity, microbial functional diversity via community-level physiological profiling, soil water holding capacity, soil microbial carbon, microbial biomass carbon, and soil carbon dioxide fluxes were all hypothesized to respond significantly to applications of any of the treatments. The use of worm castings as a whole resulted in the most significant effects on plant performance, total microbial diversity, and soil water-holding capacity while worm castings in conjunction with biochar had even more significant positive effects on plant growth and soil water-holding capacity than any other treatment. These results suggest that these organic soil amendments can increase soil and plant health which provides a cost-effective strategy for both pre-existing and newly established agricultural areas.

Access Type

Open Access

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