How Do Soil Microbes Affect Plant Health?
Posted on August 20 2020
Soil microbes and organic matter is essential for plant growth and play a significant role in the active microbial communities within the soil.
Microbes, which comprise of soil bacteria and fungus, can be either good or bad for specific types of plants.
The bad ones are plant pathogens while the good ones enrich plant life in a variety of ways.
As such, soil health is one of the key factors to consider when growing plants. It affects everything from root health to nutrient uptake, growth and productivity.
What Are Soil Microbes?
Soil microbes or micro-organisms refer to a broad category of active life forms in the soil, generally classified as bacteria, fungi, protozoa and algae.
These microbes live by competing for food and other essential nutrients, feeding on other living organisms, including each other, or in symbiotic cooperation with other organisms.
Soil microbes are generally considered good or bad, depending on how they impact plant health.
Are There Different Types Of Soil Microbes?
There are numerous microbes and microbial communities that live in the soil. Bacteria and fungi are the most known, but several other microbes are unknown.
The key types of microbes you should know include:
Bacteria are the most valuable life forms in the soil as they are involved in the final stages of breaking down complex nutrients into forms that plants can absorb. S
ome are good for root health and the plant, while others are pathogenic and cause diseases.
2. Fungi and Actinomycetes
Fungi are more like bacteria and live in the root-zone. Some can convert nutrients into forms available to the plant. Actinomycetes were once considered fungi because of similar soil activity. However, some are harmful and prey on the plants.
3. Protozoa and Nematodes
Protozoa are larger and consume bacteria, releasing the nutrients back to the plants. Nematodes, on the other hand, are microscopic (very tiny) organisms that live inside or outside the plant.
Why Do Soil Microbes Matter?
All plant microbes fall into two major groups. The first group is good for plant health, while the second causes disease or attacks the plant.
The good microbes can stir plant growth in various ways. Some convert complex nutrients into simpler forms that plants can absorb through active transport.
Others destroy the bad microbes and pests that prey on plants.
This can be through feeding on the harmful microbes, competing for the same nutrients or rhizosphere competency.
Apart from converting nutrients into plant-absorbable forms, microbes can improve soil physical characteristics and their death also releases back nutrients into the soil.
How Do You Encourage Soil Microbe Growth?
There are various ways to encourage the growth of good soil microbes. However, it boils down to providing the basic needs, which are food, water and conducive living environment.
Here are some tips to encourage microbe growth:
- Add organic matter to your gardens. Microbes need carbon for energy and organic matter has this in abundance.
- Plant cover crops and water sufficiently to encourage microbial activity.
- Avoid physical disturbance and mulch your garden.
- Protect your garden from soil erosion.
- Plant cover crops or rotate crops to restore depleted nutrients.
- Avoid pesticides. Instead, use eco-friendly fertilizer.
Soil microbes are vital for soil health, root health and overall growth of the plant. The microbial communities are also influenced by plant life and the surrounding environment.
As such, it is essential to establish sustainable practices that will enrich the soil, encouraging good microbes and inhibiting pathogenic diseases.
We recommend shopping our eco-friendly fertilizers that help build soil health and improve plant growth.
Browse below and be one step closer to reducing diseases, supporting good microbes and replenishing your soil with essential nutrients readily available for the microbes and plants.