Home Ohio Country Journal The role of soil microbes

The role of soil microbes

By James J. Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Soil microbes are abundant, making nutrients available to plants. There are more soil microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on earth. Most soil microbes exist under starvation conditions and are dormant, especially in tilled soils. There are 1,000-2,000 times more microbes near active live roots than tilled soil, and each microbe is a soluble bag of plant available fertilizer. Active roots supply 25-45% of their total root carbohydrates to feed the microbes. The plants feed the soil microbes sugars and the microbes supply the plant with amino acids, soil nutrients, and water.

Bacteria, actinomycetes, and protozoa tolerate soil disturbance and dominate in tilled soils. Fungi and nematode populations tend to dominate no-till soils with live plants. Recent research shows that humus originates mainly from the dead bodies of microbes stacked up in the soil. Good soil is just a graveyard for dead microbes!

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