Soils are one of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth, with an estimated 4,000 to 50,000 species of microorganism per gram of soil. The ‘soil microbiome’ refers to communities of microbes within the soil, which underpin natural processes in soil habitats. These include bacteria and fungi, as well as archaea, protists and viruses.
Sustainable agriculture depends on this soil microbial diversity, driving interest in managing soil microbes to deliver more efficient ecosystem services to crops. Using beneficial native microbes that promote plant health and quality, and recycling crop residues with low environmental impact are critical elements of sustainable food and energy production.
How it works
The soil microbiome has been characterised using new genomic and chemical analyses, increasing understanding of the roles it performs. Advances in gene sequencing is being used to understand complex root-populating bacterial communities. A single root can host huge microbial diversity and understanding the balance of organisms present and their function may help improve soil management for better crop health and growth.
Farmer / Agronomist Benefits
Protecting and restoring the soil microbiome has both economic and environmental benefits for farmers including:
- Movement and exchange of key nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus
- Protection of plants from stress, pests and pathogens
- Decontamination of soils through bioremediation
- Helping to maintain physical soil structure
- Decomposition of organic wastes while storing carbon
- Regulating the flow of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane