The Science of Soil Health: Changing The Way We Think About Soil Microbes


In our germophobic society today, the role
of soil microorganisms is often grossly misunderstood — to many of us, the only good bug is a dead
bug. We join Dr. Kris Nichols in Mandan, North Dakota to talk about why we need change our
thinking. We have this idea that microorganisms are
bad. In reality most of the organisms in the soil are beneficial. Most of the nematodes
that are in the soil are not plant pathogenic. Most of the nematodes that are in the soil
are actually very good at helping with especially nitrogen cycling because they consume a lot
of bacteria and when they consume that bacteria part of the waste they give off is higher
in nitrogen so it actually is an important role in the system when you have these levels
of diversity of organisms. When an organism becomes bad, it becomes bad
because its population is out of control. That diversity helps to keep populations in
check so in a soil predator and prey relationships are very important and every organism is either
eating another organisms or being eaten. There are types of fungi that actually will kill
nematodes and you have fungi that actually will kill micro-arthropods so even the smaller
organisms are able to attack some of the larger organisms and like I said then that keeps
the diversity and the populations in check so that you don’t get a population out of
control and it doesn’t become bad, so its really important for us to try and work on
that level of diversity and a lot of things that stimulate that level of diversity are
the diversity in our crop rotations or diversity above ground there is a lot of research that
shows the diversity above ground is sort of equated or even masked by diversity below
ground so that diversity above ground what it does is it provides different foods for
different organisms because that organic matter the materials that is inside the plant have
different carbon and nitrogen ratios and because there are different carbon and nitrogen ratios
it’s a different type of food. I sometimes talk about you know if you do a single crop,
a continuous crop its kind of like giving the soil the donut diet cause your feeding
it the same thing over and over and over again and so the only organisms that are able to
grow and re-populate are the same organisms that are feeding off of them whereas when
you have that diversity there are different organisms that become players in the system.

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