Soil biology is important for keeping agricultural systems healthy and productive. Living soil is complex. It includes living organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye, such as bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, protozoa and nematodes, as well as creatures such as insects and earthworms. This community of organisms is bound together in a food web that affects the soil's chemical and physical properties. We care about these properties because they affect plant growth and health.
A healthy soil can contain billions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in one teaspoon. Depending on soil conditions, the populations of these different microorganisms rise and fall.
Practices such as adding manures or composts to soil, planting cover crops and rotating crops are all aimed at rebuilding and maintaining soil organic matter, recycling and retaining nutrients, and decreasing soil diseases. These practices are usually associated with increased microbial biomass and increased soil organism diversity.
Biofertilizers contain live microorganisms that, when applied to the seed, plant or soil, inhabit the area around the roots (rhizosphere) or live in the roots. These microorganisms promote plant growth by increasing the supply or availability of nutrients, by stimulating root growth or by aiding other beneficial symbiotic relationships. Biofertilizers are also called plant growth promoters.
Legumes such as clover, peas and beans have root-colonizing rhizobacteria that can increase the availability of nitrogen to the plant by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere. There are also free-living, nitrogen-fixing bacteria that can supply nitrogen to cereal plants such as wheat and corn. They live in the area right around the root (the rhizosphere).
In many soils, nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium and iron are present in large amounts but in forms that plants cannot use. Many bacteria and fungi are able to make these nutrients available to plants by secreting organic acids or other chemicals (siderophores) to dissolve the minerals. Mycorrhizal fungi that live in plant roots are well known for their ability to provide phosphorus to plants.
Some bacteria and fungi produce plant growth hormones that can increase root growth specifically, and plant growth in general. Increased root growth helps the plant utilize a larger volume of soil for nutrients and water and can help the plant to "outgrow" pathogen attacks.
In addition to acting as a direct inhibitor of plant pathogens, some fungi and bacteria stimulate the plant to activate its own defense mechanisms. This is called “induced systemic resistance”. In response to chemical signals from the microorganisms, plants may change physiological responses so that there are fewer symptoms of the pathogen. This may include strengthening its cell wall to resist infection or releasing antibiotics (such as terpenes) that reduce pathogen attack.
By boosting and cultivating helpful bacteria, farmers can keep their crops healthier and better maintain the quality of their soil.
As plants are grown, especially the same crops season after season, soil can become depleted. Essentially this means the life-giving qualities and nutrients are never returned to the soil after it’s reaped by plants which are then harvested. In the natural cycle found in the wild, the decomposition of plants helps recycle life back into the soil.
Adding the right bacteria colonies boosts the health of the soil, making it possible to naturally produce highly nutritional foods in the same locations. Here is a brief listing of beneficial Microbials that are important to maintaining healthy soils and plants. Many of these are incorporated into Ultra Gro fertilizers.