By Pamela Sleightholm
Healthy soil is the secret to thriving plants. But have you ever wondered about the tiny lifeforms that reside beneath the surface? Soil microbiota are the hidden heroes that play a crucial role in your garden's fertility.
In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of soil microbiota, discuss why it's important, and explore practical ways to improve your garden's microbial community.
Understanding Soil Microbiota
In the soil lies a vibrant microbial world teeming with countless bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and other microorganisms. These tiny organisms form intricate networks and interactions that contribute to soil health and plant growth. They help decompose organic matter, release essential nutrients, aid in disease suppression, and boost soil structure, among other critical functions.
We rarely see evidence of microbial activity in the soil - but keep it in mind when you see mushrooms popping up after a rain. Fungi are under the soil, doing a very important job!
The Importance of Healthy Soil Microbiota
Enhanced Nutrient Availability A thriving soil microbiota acts like a natural nutrient delivery system for your plants. Microorganisms break down complex organic matter into simpler forms, releasing essential nutrients that plants can easily absorb. This symbiotic relationship ensures your plants receive a constant supply of vital elements necessary for healthy growth.
Disease Suppression A diverse and balanced soil microbial community is an incredible defense mechanism against plant diseases. Certain microbes can outcompete pathogenic organisms, produce antibacterial compounds, or trigger plants' natural defense responses.
Soil Structure Improvement Microorganisms play a significant role in improving soil structure. The activities of many bacteria and fungi help bind soil particles, creating aggregates that enhance drainage, aeration, and root penetration. This creates an optimal environment for plant root growth and absorption of water and nutrients.
Ways to Improve Soil Microbiota
Add Organic Matter Organic matter acts as food for soil microorganisms. By incorporating compost, leaf mulch, or well-rotted manure, you provide a buffet for the microbes in your soil, encouraging their growth and activity. This boosts their capacity to breakdown organic matter, improving nutrient availability.
Minimize Chemical Inputs Excessive use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides can harm soil microbiota. These chemicals can disrupt the delicate microbial balance, leading to a decline in soil health. Transitioning to organic gardening practices that rely on natural methods will help maintain a harmonious soil ecosystem.
Avoid Soil Compaction Soil compaction can limit the movement of air and water, hindering microbial activity. Avoid over-tilling or walking on garden beds when the soil is too wet, as this can compress the soil particles. Use raised beds or utilize pathways to minimize soil compaction and ensure a favorable environment for soil microbiota.
OKSANA COBAN, GERLINDE B. DE DEYN AND MARTINE VAN DER PLOEG (2022) Soil microbiota as game-changers in restoration of degraded lands, SCIENCE
4 Mar 2022 Vol 375, Issue 6584 DOI: 10.1126/science.abe0725 https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abe0725
Kendzior, J., Warren Raffa, D. and Bogdanski, A. 2022. The soil microbiome: a game changer for food and agriculture – Executive summary for policymakers and researchers. Rome, FAO.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - Soil Biodiversity/Global Soil Partnership https://www.fao.org/3/ca8251en/ca8251en.pdf