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How do soil microbes influence nutrient availability?

How do soil microbes influence nutrient availability?

This article, from Caitlin Hodges at Penn State University, asks an important question. How do soil microbes influence nutrient availability?

Nutrient Availability

Its no secret that plants need a number of important nutrients. Often these nutrients are hidden in plain site. They are in the soil or air, but the plant has no way to access them or they are in a chemical form that cannot be utilized by the plant. The conversion of Atmospheric nitrogen is one such example.

Beneficial Microbes in Soil

The missing ingredient, then, is beneficial soil microorganisms. The author sums it up well and categorizes the microorganisms into three broad groups; recyclers, miners, and refiners. Both beneficial bacteria and beneficial trichoderma fungi fit into the first two groups. Only the bacteria, specifically Rhizobia and Paenibacillus, fit into the third group.

Nutrient Availability

Beneficial microbes are working in the soil to make nutrients available to the plant.

As always, there’s a link to the complete article below.

“Soil is rich with biological diversity and complexity that is not immediately apparent to the unaided eye,” writes blogger Caitlin Hodges, Pennsylvania State University. Soil microorganisms make nutrients available for plants in three ways:

  • “Recyclers” break down plant and animal matter. “They turn the world’s refuse into the building blocks of life,” Hodges says. “The maintenance of plant-life would be nearly impossible without these hard-working organisms.”

  • “Miners” work on extracting nutrients from rocks and minerals. They excrete a substance with “a special pH and other key characteristics specially formulated to bind and extract nutrients like phosphorus, calcium, and potassium.” Plants need these minerals for healthy growth.

  • “Refiners” are rhizobia bacteria. “These ‘nitrogen-fixing’ bacteria take inert nitrogen gas in the atmosphere (N2 gas) and convert it to the plant-available ammonia and other nitrogen-rich organic compounds,” Hodges says.



Custom Biologicals manufactures and distributes beneficial microorganisms for agriculture and a number of other industries.


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