Tag Archives: Soil

Soil Microbes and Nutrient Recycling

Soil Microbes and Nutrient Recycling

Nutrient recycling in soil is generally performed by microorganisms. Both beneficial soil fungi and beneficial soil bacteria are the main players. Soil microbes will exist in extremely large numbers in soils as long as a carbon source exists for energy. Interestingly, in undisturbed soils fungi tend to dominate the soil biomass, while in tilled soils bacteria, actinomycetes, and protozoa dominate the soils. This is due to the fact that the later are hardier species and can tolerate more soil disruptions.

Organic Matter Decomposition by Microorganisms

The decomposition of organic matter serves two distinct functions for microorganisms. This process provides both an energy source and supplies carbon for cell growth and reproduction. Absent  a reliable carbon source, there are less microorganisms and the organisms that are present tend to be in a dormant state. This is the condition found in

Nutrient Recycling

Dawn on the road in the forest in summer

tilled and highly used soils.

In contrast, long term no tilled soils have significantly higher levels of microbes, higher levels of soil decomposition, more active carbon, and more stored carbon. In other words, these soils have a greater degree of nutrient recycling and are healthier as a results.

The overall health of soil will be greatly effected by the amount of organic carbon in the soil. This organic carbon is needed to support an active, healthy microbial population.

Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio

The break down of organic compounds by microorganisms is greatly dependent on the carbon to nitrogen ratio  (C:N). Bacteria generally start the decomposition process first. They have high nitrogen content in their cells but are typically less efficient at converting the organic carbon to new cells. Aerobic bacteria only metabolize and assimilate 5-10% of the available carbon leaving behind many waste carbon compounds.

The fungi are much more efficient at converting soil carbon into new cells. They can assimilate 40-55 % of the existing carbon. In particular, fungi are invaluable in consuming both cellulose and lignin.

Protozoa and nematodes consume the nitrogen rich bacteria and help the nutrient recycling process. They release the nitrogen as ammonia. Ammonia and soil nitrates are converted back and forth in the soil.

Microorganism communities change rapidly and continuously in the soil as organic matter is added, consumed, and recycled.

In conclusion, microorganisms are critical to decomposing and nutrient recycling. To have healthy, productive soils both a thriving microorganism population and carbon source are necessary pieces of the puzzle.

Have questions about nutrient recycling? Custom Biologicals can help. We manufacture a number of biological products that help with nutrient recycling in farming and gardening. Contact Custom at (561) 797-3008 or via email at Bill@Custombio.biz.

 

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Specific Plant Benefits Provided by Beneficial Soil Bacteria

 Beneficial Soil Bacteria

Beneficial soil bacteria cause a number of specific plant benefits. These benefits include; larger, healthier roots, nutrient processing, and secretion of plant growth regulating substances. This post will discuss each of these plant benefits in more detail.

Beneficial Soil Bacteria Help grow Larger, Healthier Roots

There are a number of bacteria that help promote plant growth and they are sometimes beneficial soil bacteriacalled Plant Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGBR). PGBR are defined as rhizospere inhabiting bacteria that have a positive effect on plant growth and plant health. There are several genera that are considered PGPR including, Bacillus, Azospirillum, and Pseudomonas.

Beneficial soil bacteria, such as Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus megaterium, produce a class of chemicals called cytokinins. These cytokinins impact roots by overproduction of root hairs and and lateral roots. This, in turn, provides the plant with an increased ability to take up water and nutrients. So, as expected, a larger healthier root system provides for a healthier plant.

Enhanced Nutrient Processing

Bacteria process a wide variety of chemicals. Often times taking in inorganic compounds and metabolizing them into organic compounds. The bacteria need phosphate for DNA and RNA synthesis and for production of ATP. The benefit to the plant of this processing is the conversion of the phosphate from an insoluble form to a soluble one. Since insoluble phosphate is inaccessible to the plant, this processing by bacteria is invaluable to the plant.

Bacteria Produce and Secrete plant Growth Regulating Compounds

Along with the cytokinins, mentioned earlier, bacteria produce a number of beneficial growth compounds  that convey a plant benefit. These include plant hormones (sometimes called phytohormones) and  auxins. Together phytohormones, cytokinins, and auxins regulate plant growth, root size, and fruit formation. Ultimately, its the beneficial bacteria that either produce these compounds or induce the plant to produce these compounds.

Custom Biologicals manufactures a wide variety of biological products for use in environmental applications. Our agricultural products include Custom B5, a blend of 5 beneficial soil bacteria that convey the specific plant benefits mentioned above. Contact Custom for more information. 

Living Organic Fertilizer

mighty grow sales sheet pngLiving Organic Fertilizer

OMRI Listed and Processed with Natural Trace Minerals and Beneficial Microorganisms

Living Organic Fertilizer is a innovative, OMRI listed, biologically active fertilizer manufactured by Mighty Grow. Made from poultry litter and processed with live beneficial microbes and trace minerals, this revolutionary product is an all purpose, premium fertilizer.

Living Organic fertilizer is a 4/3/4 product and is suitable for use in organic farming, gardening, and golf course greens.

Living Organic Fertilizer is:

  • Biologically Active
  • Naturally Time Released
  • 100% Organic, OMRI Listed
  • Safe and Natural
  • Non-Burning
  • Promoties both plant and soil health. Increases soil organic matter.
  • Replaces beneficial soil microorganisms and contains both beneficial soil fungi and beneficial soil bacteria.

An often overlooked component of soil health are beneficial soil microorganisms. In fact, beneficial bacteria and beneficial fungi are largely responsible for making a wide variety of nutrients available to the plant. Additionally, soil microorganisms are responsible for mineralization and immobilization of soil nutrients.

A common element of healthy soils, is a large, diverse population of soil microorganisms. So what happens in soils that don’t have this population of soil organisms? Simple, the crops underperform and require increasing amounts of traditional fertilizers. Not only are traditional fertilizers expensive, they are environmentally suspect.

The solution is Living Organic Fertilizer containing five species of beneficial soil bacteria and four species of beneficial soil bacteria.

Living Organic Fertilizer Contains Beneficial Soil Microorganisms.

  • Beneficial Soil Bacteria
    1. Bacillus subtilis
    2. Bacillus licheniformus
    3. Bacillus pumilus
    4. Bacillus megaterium
    5. Bacillus laterosporus
  • Beneficial Soil Fungi
    1. Trichoderma harzianum
    2. Trichoderma kongii
    3. Trichoderma viride
    4. Trichoderma polysporum

Contact me for more information about Living Organic fertilizer or biologically active fertilizers at (561) 797-3008 or Bill@custombio.biz.

MSDS-MightyGrow_4-3-4

Living Organic 4-3-4 Bulk Label

MG-SALES-SHEET-LivingOrganic-OMRI-PROOF

MSDS-MightyGrow_4-3-4

 

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Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria

Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria

 

Great review article about plant growth promoting bacteria. The link, citation, and author are below. The author believes, as I do, that in the not to distant future, plant growth promoting bacteria, PGPB, will begin to replace chemicals used in agriculture, horticulture,

plant growth promoting bacteria

Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria

environmental cleanup strategies, and even in home gardening. This change will not be a one size fits all solution, and no doubt some new technologies and application strategies will need to be employed.

Some of the key points:

  • In healthy soils, there are 108 to 10bacteria per gram but in stressed soils this number greatly decreases to as low as 104 bacteria per gram.
  • A number of different bacterial species are currently used in agriculture; however plant growth promoting bacteria are only used on a small fraction of available crops.
  • Bacteria are used for:
    • Nitrogen fixation
    • Phosphate Solubilization
    • Sequestering Iron
    • Producing Phytohormones
    • Producing Gibberellins,  Cytokinins,  Indoleacetic Acid, and Etylene
  • Bacteria affect plants in indirect ways like through competitive exclusion, and modulating the effects of stress.

The conclusion of the article is that the use of bacteria in agriculture has come of age. Taking advantage of microbe-plant interactions will be the future of agriculture. Additional studies will be needed, however, the commercial use of plant growth promoting bacteria will be more prevalent in the coming years.

 

 

Scientifica
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 963401, 15 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.6064/2012/963401
Review Article

Plant Growth-Promoting Bacteria: Mechanisms and Applications

Bernard R. Glick

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/scientifica/2012/963401/

 

Custom Biologicals, Inc.  manufactures a number of microbial products with plant growth promoting bacteria (PBPG). These biofertilizers contain both beneficial soil bacteria and beneficial Trichoderma fungi. Distributor inquires, both domestic and international are always welcome. Private formulations and protected areas are available. Contact Custom at (561) 797-3008 or via email at Bill@Custombio.biz.

 

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What do Soil Organisms Do?

Nutrient cycling in the dry savannas

What do Soil Organisms Do?

We’re all aware that our soils are teeming with life, from the microscopic (bacteria) to the macroscopic (earthworms). In this post, we’ll examine some of the common soil organisms and discuss what they do in the soil.

First, the players. Here’s a list of common soil organisms. Keep in mind that the soil ecosystem is extremely varied and small changes in common soil characteristics (pH, water, temperature, nutrient levels) can have a large impact on the species found in the soil.

  • Bacteria – both aerobic and anaerobic. As many as 100,000,000 bacteria per teaspoon of soil.
  • Fungi – singled celled and multi-celled. Several yards per teaspoon.
  • Protozoa – one celled animals. Several thousand protozoa per teaspoons of soil.
  • Nematodes – also called roundworms. 10-20 nematodes per teaspoon of soil is typical.
  • Arthropods – includes insects, spiders. Several hundred per cubic foot.
  • Earthworms – One inch or more long. healthy soils will have 5-30 earthworms per cubic foot.

As you can see, healthy soils contain a wide variety of soil organisms. From simple single celled organisms, to more complex organisms like insects and earthworms.

The Value of Soil Organisms

From a farming perspective, a diverse active population of soil organisms has four main benefits; nutrient cycling, enhancing soil structure, enhancing plant growth, and controlling plant disease. Each of these benefits could be a topic on their own. I’ll just summarize the benefits here.

Nutrient Cycling – Probably the most important from a farming perspective, soil organisms help store nutrients in the soil and create new organic nutrients. Soil organisms are continually transforming and recycling nutrients. The key tasks of decomposition, mineralization, immobilization, and mineral transformation are all performed by soil organisms.

Enhanced Soil Structure – Crumbly, well aerated soils tend to support the most crops. Soil organisms are the key component of soil structure.

Enhanced Plant Growth – Beneficial soil bacteria and beneficial soil fungi produce a wide variety of plant hormones. These  hormones stimulate plant roots.

Controlling Plant Disease – Soil organisms have a wide variety of ways to deal with plant predators. Some of the microscopic organisms complete with pathogens for food sources. Insects and protozoa tend to consume some of the harmful plant organisms, keeping their populations in check.

Each type of soil organism fits a unique niche, playing a different role in nutrient cycling, enhanced soil structure, and controlling plant diseases and plant predators.

 

 

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Beneficial Soil Microbes

Beneficial Soil Microbes in the News

Beneficial soil microbes include everything from bacteria to fungi. These microscopic forms of life are getting a lot of attention in agriculture these days. This article sums up a feature article in this months Scientific American. The article looks at how soil microbes may revolutionize agriculture.

Two other recent scientific article are referenced. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlines how diversity in microbial populations is important to European agriculture. The second article in Nature determined that soil microbes are responsible for controlling carbon in the soil.

In general these articles talk about beneficial soil microorganisms and include both beneficial bacteria and beneficial soil fungi.

 

Dirty Microbes

As scientists understand more about microbes, it seems that the miniscule life forms have the potential to contribute to a host of useful activities—making biofuels, fighting human disease, improving high tech, you name it!

Now, a feature article in the September issue ofScientific American looks at how soil microbes could revolutionize agriculture.

Soil microbes include everything from bacteria to fungi, and article author Richard Conniff likes to call the lot collectively “the agribiome.” These microscopic life forms have the potential to solve many crises facing agriculture today—everything from climate change and drought to Salmonellaand other food-bourn illnesses, from the costs of man-made fertilizers to the GMO controversy.

Conniff’s article comes on the heels two other papers that highlight the importance of soil microbes. In a paper published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of British scientists emphasizes how important soil microbe diversity is for European crops. And two weeks ago, American researchers determined that soil microbes are responsible for controlling carbon in the soil—an important factor in retaining the important mineral in the dirt as temperatures rise and the climate warms.

The Scientific American article gives many examples of these crucial, unseen microbial workers. Bacteria found in soil on the United States West Coast can kill Salmonella, Conniff reports, so the USDA is looking at introducing the bacteria in East Coast soils to stop the occasionally deadly outbreaks.

And instead of genetically modifying actual crops to withstand drought conditions, Mexican scientists are looking at modifying bacteria to strengthen the plants in the soil at their roots.

Mycorrhizal fungi in the soil are heroes in both the SciAm article and the PNAS study. The fungi deliver much-needed phosphate to crops, an easier and cheaper way to get the important mineral to the plants to help them grow. Artificial fertilizers can be expensive, especially for farmers in developing countries, and harm the natural soil ecosystem. Run-off from these fertilizers also contaminates freshwater and marine environments. A simple animation of how the fungi works to help plants is available here.

(Mycorrhizal fungi also play a heroic role in the next Academy planetarium show! Currently in production and set for a fall 2014 opening date, the latest production from our visualization studio will highlight the complex relationships in ecosystems—and how humans fit into the picture.)

If farmers and scientists can acknowledge that collaborating with microbes can play a crucial role in farming, “we will have come a step closer to feeding a hungry world,” Conniff concludes.

The lead author of the PNAS paper, Franciska de Vries, says, “This research highlights the importance of soil organisms and demonstrates that there is a whole world beneath our feet, inhabited by small creatures that we can’t even see most of the time. By liberating nitrogen for plant growth and locking up carbon in the soil they play an important role in supporting life on Earth.”

 By Molly Michelson

 

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Soil Quality using Management Practices

Soil Quality using Management Practices

Soil quality is the most important factor for long term agricultural productivity . A good soil manager will monitor the organic content of the soil, water holding capacity, and a host of other soil quality parameters that are discussed in detail in the article below. 

Soil quality also relies on the diversity of beneficial soil microorganisms.

Wise management practices could improve soil quality

 

Surface soil produces our food and is vital for life. This precious resource often is called “skin of the Earth” and, just as skin, it is important to protect and maintain its quality.

Soil quality is the inherent capacity of a particular soil to support human health and habitation; maintain or enhance air and water quality; and, most important, sustain plant and animal productivity.

From an agricultural standpoint, soil quality is vital for improving long-term agricultural productivity and maximizing profits through sustainable productivity.

It is important for soil both to function optimally for current needs and remain healthy for future use. Soil organic matter, tillage, soil compaction, soil structure, depth of soil, water-holding capacity, electrical conductivity, pH, ground cover, microbial biodiversity, carbon-to-nitrogen ratio and nutrient management are some of the important parameters of soil quality.

Improving and maintaining soil organic matter content is the most important quality parameter. Increasing organic matter improves soil structure as well as water- and nutrient-holding capacity, supports soil microbes, and protects soil from erosion and compaction. Organic matter can be improved by using no-till or minimum till methods, growing cover crops, leaving crop residues and using rotations with crops that balance optimal water and nutrient management practices.

Using reduced tillage practices will protect the soil surface, which decreases soil erosion and soil compaction, and decreases the loss of organic matter. Reduction in tillage also decreases the potential for destroying soil structure. Soil compaction can be caused by using heavy equipment on the surface when the soil is wet. Compaction will reduce the amount of air, water and pore space for growth of both soil microbes and plant roots. Soil compaction can be reduced by minimizing equipment use when the ground is wet and combining multiple farm tasks, such as applying both herbicides and fertilizer in one trip.

Growing cover crops and leaving residue from previous crops is the best way to reduce soil erosion by wind and water. Ground cover can be increased by growing perennial crops such as grasses in a pasture situation. Ground cover will improve water availability, but care should be taken to manage it properly to prevent disease outbreak.

Soil quality also relies on microbial organisms. Diversity in soil microbes may be helpful in controlling pest populations, diseases and weeds. Biodiversity can be achieved by increasing long-term crop rotations, since each plant in rotation contributes to unique soil structure and plant residue.

Understanding how to improve soil quality is aided by knowledge of the carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio for managing cover crops and nutrient cycling.

The C:N ratio is the amount of carbon to the amount of nitrogen in a residue or other organic material applied to soil. If material with a higher C:N ratio residue is applied, it takes longer to decompose and may immobilize inorganic fertilizers that are applied. This problem can be reduced by growing a low C:N ratio crop (e.g., vetch or other legumes) in rotation with a high C:N ratio crop (e.g., wheat straw).

Finally, efficient nutrient management is important in maintaining soil quality. Test your soils regularly and make sure that you store all your records. Examining records over time will tell whether the management practices that were followed increased or depleted soil nutrients. Too much fertilizer or manure may cause groundwater contamination or may run off and enter water bodies and degrade water quality. Application of nutrients based on a soil test will alleviate this problem.

What works on one farm may not work on another. Adjust your management plan by observing changes in soil quality on your farm. Wise management decisions will improve the overall quality of the soil. Being proactive, rather than reactive, will make you a better steward of this limited resource.

 

 

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Sustainable Farming Practices

Sustainable Farming Practices

 

Sustainable farming practices are in the news these days. This article talks about sustainable farming practices from a pragmatic point of view.

The definition of sustainable farming is practical as well: “a group of practices designed to protect the earth from potential harm that growing crops and animals for food sustainable farming practicespurposes can do”.

 

If you’re involved in agriculture, even on a small scale, chances are you’ve heard about sustainable farming practices before. On the off chance that you haven’t, sustainable farming, simply put, is a group of practices designed to protect the earth from potential harm that growing crops and raising animals for food purposes can do.

However, for many farmers, sustainable farming seems like an unreachable goal, and one that will make day-to-day operations too costly. While that may be true of very expensive processes that involve full-scale renovations to a farm or growing land, there are many sustainable farming practices that can be easily incorporated into your regular routine.

In fact, some can even save you money in the long run.

 

Water Management

Poorly maintained irrigation systems and water waste are common problems among farms of all sizes, from small single-family farms to major farms that supply significant amounts of food for resale; however, managing your water consumption doesn’t have to be a chore.

The easiest and best way to manage your water use is by planting crops that naturally grow in the area. If you live in an area without a lot of rain, don’t plant crops that need considerable moisture on a regular basis in large quantities.

In addition to choosing the proper crops, irrigating your land properly and using cover crops that help the soil retain moisture for longer periods of time, therefore requiring less watering from you, can help reduce your overall water use.

Collecting rainwater is another option for many farmers, and that can save you money after your initial investment is paid back within a relatively short period of time.

 

Rotate Your Crops

Crop rotation is an old practice that teaches farmers to alternate their crops in order to keep their soil as healthy and nutrient-rich as possible. In some cases, crop rotation can be very simple.

For example, you should plant grains after legumes and crops that grow in rows after grains; however, depending on what you’re growing, it isn’t always that simple. Doing a little bit of homework on how to best rotate your specific crops is recommended.

The benefits of rotating your crops include prevention of disease transmission from crop to crop and a general reduction in the amount of pests in the soil that can damage crops.

 

Diversify Your Crops

Crop diversity takes the idea of crop rotation a step further, getting farmers to alternate the species of a certain type of crop when they grow it. This not only helps to keep soil nutrient-rich, but it also helps farmers protect their crops from diseases and pests.

Using a combination crop rotation and crop diversification method is ideal, and if you’re only growing a handful of crops each year, it is surprisingly simple to do.

 

Controlled Pest Management

Pest management is a serious concern for many farmers; however, simply spraying all of your crops isn’t in the best interest for the soil, your crops or the earth, and it doesn’t have to be done if you’re smart about how you plant your crops.

By rotating crops, diversifying your species and integrating beneficial insects that keep harmful pests out, you may not need to spray at all. If you do, you’ll be able to use a targeted-spray method, limiting your overall use of pesticides and chemicals.

Sustainable farming is more important today than it ever has been because of droughts in many areas and increased temperatures all over the globe. Even if you only grow a small amount of crops each year, using these basic sustainable growing practices can help reduce your farm’s environmental impact while saving you money in the process.

 

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Living Organic Fertilizer Press Release

Living Organic Fertilizer Press Release

This a unique organic fertilizer containing beneficial soil bacteria, beneficial soil fungi, trace minerals and has a 4/3/4 NPK value.Living Organic 4-3-4 Bulk Label OMRI-Cert-Living-Organic_4-3-4

Living Organic Fertilizer:

  • Is water insoluble so the nutrients don’t wash away.
  • Contains NPK AND beneficial microbes. You get two great products in one package.
  • Contains 70 Trace Minerals
  • helps increase Soil Organic Matter.
  • OMRI Listed™.

Contact Custom Biologicals for more information at Bill@Custombio.biz or (561) 797-3008.

May 16, 2013

MightyGrow Organics Now Offers First Living, Pelletized Fertilizer with Trace Minerals

 

FRUITDALE, Ala. – MightyGrow Organics, makers of poultry litter-based, living organic fertilizer, now offers its popular fertilizer in pelletized form, making it the firstever living, pelletized fertilizer on the market. The new product also makes it easier for farmers, golf course managers and maintenance crews to fertilize their land with a proven product.

“We wanted to make their jobs easier and help them get the same great results with MightyGrow,” said Michael LaBelle, owner of MightyGrow Organics. “With our pelletized fertilizer, you can apply anytime and spread it without the need for specialized equipment. Plus, it smells better, which really helps places like golf courses and estate gardens.”

Pelletized organic fertilizers are typically sterilized during the pelleting process, but MightyGrow has developed a method to maintain the “biologically active” status of their fertilizer all the way to the customer.

“Our fertilizer is anaerobically digested, which makes the nutrients more plant available,” said LaBelle. “Ours is the only pelletized organic fertilizer with over 70 trace minerals added to it, making it the best organic fertilizer on the market.”

Farmers, gardeners and landscapers have been using MightyGrow products for years and have had great results with the granulated fertilizer.

“I’ve had increased production of the long-standing crops like: tomatoes, peppers, squash and zucchini, and it’s lasted longer with less put down,” said John Bartlett, owner of Bartlett Farm in Louisiana. “I’ve used other poultry litters in the past, but MightyGrow seems to stay in the soil longer and release perfectly to the plants.”

Other farmers agree with Bartlett. A husband and wife farming team in Hammond, Louisiana, who sells their produce to Whole Foods, Fresh Market, and countless restaurants in the New Orleans area, says MightyGrow is the best fertilizer they’ve ever used.

“We have had excellent results with MightyGrow,” exclaimed C.C. Gaiennie, owner of Ole Market Lane Farm. “We’ve discontinued using the fertilizer that we were creating, and gone strictly to using MightyGrow on all our crops. Our yield has been much higher. We’ve even had fewer insects and fewer weeds. Everything has just worked a lot better since we changed over to MightyGrow.”

MightyGrow Organics manufactures a premium organic fertilizer that is especially effective for restoring the life in soil that has been sterilized by synthetic fertilizers. MightyGrow Living Organic Fertilizer contains live beneficial microbes and trace minerals for optimal soil and plant health.

 

Contact Custom Biologicals for more information at Bill@Custombio.biz or (561) 797-3008.  Custom Biologicals manufactures a wide variety of biological products for use in environmental applications.

 

Microbes can have reviving action on growing systems

Microbes Can Revive Soils

Microbes can improve soil health, soil quality, and the quality, yield, and growth of crops. Microorganisms are an important part of the food web and perhaps the most overlooked part of the food web.

 

Microbes can have reviving action on growing systems

From: Nature Farm

Using Microbes in our soils and agricultural systems have been subject to a variety of trials within New Zealand on everything from sheep and cattle farms to onion growing. They have been shown to have a reviving action on growing systems. They can improve soil quality, soil health, and the growth, yield and quality of crops. Many fertiliser companies are now offering microbes as part of their bio product range, ensuring that the soil is inoculated to perform at its absolute peak. It is imperative that we start to explore more sustainable options for our agriculture, pastoral and horticulture sectors as the demand for food around the world continues to grow. We believe microbes for an important part to ensuring the fertility of our soils for generations to come. What do these beneficial microbes do?

Agricultural production begins with photosynthesis – the conversion of solar energy into chemical form. It’s an amazing process, but not a particularly efficient one. Even rapid growing plants like corn and sugar cane only fix a maximum of six to seven percent of the sun’s energy. One way to increase the amount of energy fixed, is with photosynthetic bacteria and algae. These utilize wavelengths that green plants do not.

Photosynthetic or phototropic bacteria are independent self-supporting microbes. They use the energy of sunlight and soil heat to convert secretions from plant roots, organic matter and harmful gases into plant useful substances like amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars and other metabolites. These can all be absorbed directly into plants to promote plant growth and also increase other beneficial microorganisms. For example VAM fungi increase in the root zone in the presence of amino acids secreted by these bacteria. In turn the VAM fungi improve the plant’s absorption of soil phosphates. The VAM can live alongside Azotobacter and Rhizobium and increase the capacity of plants to fix Nitrogen.

Other important species are lactic acid bacteria and yeast. These produce lactic acid from the sugars and carbohydrates the photosynthetic bacteria and yeasts produce. This is a strong sterilizing compound and can suppress some disease inducing microorganisms and nematode populations. It also contributes to the fermentation and breakdown of the tough cellulose and lignin. Here’s our soil digestive processes getting a help along. Yeasts on the other hand have other uses. They produce hormones and enzymes that promote plant cell and root division. They use the amino acids and sugars secreted by the photosynthetic bacteria and plant roots and in turn give off substances which are good growing compounds for the Lactic acid bacteria. So all three species have a separate role to play, and help each other. They also have a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship with the roots of plants. So plants grow exceptionally well in soils dominated by these Microbes.

Bacteria and microbes live, reproduce and die, at enormous rates and in doing so release a constant stream of nutrients in plant available form. They collect nitrogen and other nutrients from the soil organic matter and mineral particles. They reproduce, so more microbes are collecting and converting nutrients. They die and release what they have collected in a form the plants can use. The plants grow better, assimilate more energy and provide more food for more microbes and so it goes on.

It’s a two way process. Living plants absorb energy from the sun, incorporate it with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, water and nutrients they require from the soil. Then they release oxygen back to the atmosphere and carbon to the soil as carbohydrates, glucose and other carbon forms for the microbes to feed on. The size of this microbial population is governed by the inputs from the plants, the primary producers.

We can see the grass and trees growing on top of the ground. But scientists tell us that fifty percent of a plant’s primary production disappears underground to establish the root network and feed the microorganisms. That is what happens in a healthy natural system. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that has evolved over eons and led to the formation of our most fertile and well-structured soils. Even the timing is perfect. In most natural systems, the greatest microbial turnover and release of nutrients, coincides with the plant’s growth and its seasonal needs.

Understanding this helps us see the danger of farming systems and landuse activities that starve the soil of carbon matter. No carbon means no food for the microbes. No food for the microbes means no turnover of nutrients. No nutrients means no plant growth which means no carbon inputs and so it goes on into a downward spiral with loss of fertility, loss of structure, erosion and so on and on. So our effective microorganisms are only going to remain effective if we manage our pastures with them in mind too. That means not overstocking or baring paddocks. It means allowing pastures to develop enough leaf to do their photosynthesis number effectively and fix some carbon for all the other little greeblies further along the food chain.

 

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