Farmers have known for many years that microbes are essential for soil and plant health. Modern research shows even more that beneficial microbes can help plants to grow. Soil microbes associated with plant roots offer many benefits, from improving the nutrient content of your crops to increasing their resistance to disease. Some soil microbes are also beneficial to you.
What are Soil Microbes?
Microbes are small living organisms too small to be seen through a microscope. They are also called “microorganisms”, which is more accurate because the term “microbe” usually refers to single-celled organisms.
Good garden soil contains a large number of microbes, which can be counted in billions per cubic centimeter of rich soil. In an article written by earth scientists at a university in Ohio, they say: “A teaspoon of earth contains more microbes than man.
With these figures, it is clear that these living organisms make up a significant portion of the soil biomass, equivalent to tons per hectare. Soil organic matter is alive in every aspect.
It is also inconceivable that so many organisms play an important role in soil properties. Former farmers had an idea of what “good” natural soil should be and even took measures such as crop rotation and fertilization to improve their health.
These small organisms had complex interactions with plants, which even modern science has begun to decipher. Although some of them are harmful, most are useful and even necessary for a healthy balance of life in the soil.
Benefits of Soil Microbes
When we begin to understand that microbes are part of a very organic soil ecosystem, it is easier to understand the importance of their role. They play an important role in the functioning of this ecosystem, whose benefits extend far beyond the soil.
Microbes break down waste
These small organisms are responsible for the decomposition of organic matter into smaller components that can be absorbed by plants as food. They contribute to a cycle in which living plants absorb nutrients from dead plants and then die or are eaten by animals, and this process is repeated.
They also help to break down the waste that we throw into the ground, including plastic. In this way, microbes play an important role in protecting the ecosystem and replenishing the ‘caught’ nutrients.
Microbes improve the uptake of nutrients by plants
Did you know that plants only absorb about 40-60% when they fertilize in the soil? The rest is trapped in an unusable way or lost in sewage or volatile substances.
However, microbes play an important role in improving the uptake of nutrients by plants. They do this naturally through processes such as fixation, dissolution, and production of phytohormones.
This additional effect of microbes on plant productivity is so important that scientists are learning how to supply microbes with fertilizer to improve their uptake.
They improve soil structure
When microbes destroy organic material, they release smaller particles that help bind larger particles in the aggregates. These aggregates are needed to improve soil aeration, water permeability, and other important characteristics.
Some of these microbes such as fungi and algae also produce threads or secret compounds that bind the soil. One of the most important results of this unit is that obtained organic soil can hold more water.
They help to break down carbon
Microbes play an important role in the carbon cycle. They divide living things (organic matter) into more useful forms of carbon, which can then be absorbed by other plants.
Others decompose carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to produce energy. An example of this is yeast, which can break down carbon dioxide in the absence of oxygen.
Microbes produce ammonia from nitrogen in the air
The bacteria that bind nitrogen are known to scientists and farmers. Legumes such as peas have nodules in their roots that contain billions to help them “fix” nitrogen in the air in more useful forms such as ammonia.
In addition to bacteria, some other microbes, such as protozoa and nematodes, also release ammonia when they feed on soil bacteria. Thus, it is another synergistic effect, the overall effect of which is to increase natural soil fertility and plant growth.
They break down pesticides and detoxify the soil
Microbes not only destroy physical matter. They also break down toxic chemical substances in the soil such as pesticides and surplus fertilizers into soft and useful plant compounds.
These organisms can do this through complex metabolic processes. Although they can be damaged, they help protect plants and other forms of life in garden soil from further damage. Even oil spills and nuclear waste depend on these small organisms cleaning and detoxifying the soil.
Microbiological diseases and pest control
Although some microbes are themselves the cause of plant diseases, many of them stimulate resistance to plant diseases. This is an important point in the world where about 30% of food production is lost to the disease before it reaches the consumer.
Instead of using many chemicals to prevent plant diseases, it is possible to use germs. Some diseases, such as the terrible wilting disease, can be completely prevented with a suitable microbiome that also keeps the pests in the bay.
Improving Microbiological Life in Garden Soil
Since microbiological life in the soil is so important, we must of course take measures to treat and protect it. You can buy healthy, organic soil for your horticulture. The Ancient Path Naturals has long been an expert on soil fertility and can provide you with organic soil to transform your garden.
If you just want to improve what you already have, there are several scientific methods to improve microbial soil content and biodiversity.
Using organic fertilizers
The use of organic fertilizers such as manure and compost is more rational than the use of artificial fertilizers. They promote microbiological activity and the introduction of more organic material.
Monitor and control soil pH
Longer cultivation and fertilization reduce the pH value of the soil and make it more acidic. Microbes need a more neutral environment. Therefore, a balanced pH level can help improve the living conditions of the microbes.
Since ancient times, the practice of crop rotation has focused more on controlling harmful microbes and preventing the spread of plant diseases. It also helps to improve plant nutrition, especially since monocultures (e.g. wheat) alternate with legumes.
Minimum tillage to protect topsoil
Most microbial populations are found in the top layer of soil and humus. Tillage turns around and destroys the webs of microbial life unless exposed to hot sunlight. Instead, you can only drill where you will plant and retain the straw.
Preserving plant cover
During the dormancy period, plants are covered to maintain moisture, add organic matter, and protect the soil.
The introduction of organic matter into the soil
Organic matter has a great biological diversity that can feed the soil. The addition of mulch, compost, and other rich organic matter helps to increase the number of shoots in the natural soil.
By introducing microbes directly
If your soil is particularly degraded, you can add some germs directly to it. Mycorrhizal threads allow the addition of fungi, probiotics, bacteria, and even some worms.
Healthy natural soil is living soil. It not only ensures healthy plant growth but also increases productivity and protects against harmful plant diseases. With soil microbes, you can count on all these benefits and many more, no matter what you want to grow in the soil.