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Short essay on the soil food web

Short essay on the soil food web

Diverse populations of soil bacteria and fungi can suppress root diseases. Soil bacteria and fungi are encouraged by ground cover and organic matter inputs. Populations of soil bacteria change rapidly depending on moisture, time of year, type of crop, stubble management, etc.

Soil fungi are slower to develop, and are strongly set back by cultivation. Soil bacteria Bacteria are the most abundant microbes in the soil. They are single celled organisms, and there can be billions of bacteria in a single gram of soil. Populations of bacteria can boom or bust in the space of a few days in response to changes in soil moisture, soil temperature or carbon substrate.

Some bacteria species are very fragile and may be killed by slight changes in the soil environment. Others are extremely tough, able to withstand severe heat, cold or drying.

Short essay on the soil food web

Some bacteria are dependent on specific plant species. Soil fungi Soil fungi are microscopic plant-like cells that can be single celled e.

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They can be symbiotic with plant roots figure 1. Fungi are generally not as dependent on specific plant species as some bacteria, and populations are slower to develop. Figure 1: Hyphae from mycorrhizal fungi emerging from plant roots.

Photo: Paula Flynn, Iowa State University Extension Types of bacteria Decomposers: play an important role in the early stages of decomposition of organic materials in the later stages fungi tend to dominate. Rhizobium bacteria live in special root nodules on legumes and can be inoculated onto legume seeds.

Other free-living nitrogen-fixing bacteria associate with non-legumes, but inoculating with these organisms has not proved effective in increasing nitrogen fixation for non-legume crops.

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Disease suppressors: release antibiotic substances to suppress particular competitors. A number of bacteria have been commercialised for disease suppression.

Determine Soil Type and pH, Landscape for Life

Their effect is often specific to particular diseases of particular crops and may only be effective in certain circumstances. Actinobacteria: help to slowly break down humates and humic acids in soils, and prefer non-acidic soils with pH higher than 5.

Short essay on the soil food web

Sulfur oxidisers: Thiobacillus bacteria can covert sulfides common in soil minerals but largely unavailable to plants into sulfates, a form plants can use. Aerobes and anaerobes: Aerobic bacteria need oxygen, and dominate in well drained soil. Anaerobic bacteria do not need oxygen, and favour wet, poorly drained soils.

They can produce toxic compounds that limit root growth and predispose plants to root diseases. Fungi groups Decomposers: are essential for breaking down woody organic matter, They play an important role in immobilising and retaining nutrients in the soil.

The organic acids they produce help create soil organic matter that is resistant to degradation.

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Mutualists: develop mutually beneficial relationships with plants. Mycorrhizal fungi are the best known, and grow inside plant roots.

Arbuscular mycorrhiza VAM are the most common, especially in agricultural plant associations. These fungi have arbuscles, growths formed inside the plant root that have many small projections into root cells, as well as their hyphae outside the root figure 1. Pathogens: including the well known Verticillium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia and Pythium fungi penetrate the plant and decompose the living tissue, leading to weakened or dead plants.

Where disease symptoms are seen, the pathogenic fungi is usually the dominant organism in the soil. Soils with high biodiversity can suppress soil-borne fungal diseases.

Management of soil bacteria Though largely unaffected by cultivation, bacteria populations are depressed by dry conditions, acidity, salinity, soil compaction and lack of organic matter.

Except in the case of certain seed inoculations, it is very difficult to build desirable populations of bacteria just by adding them to the soil. If populations of soil bacteria are low, it is probably because conditions are unfavourable. Effective approaches that have multiple benefits to support healthy soil bacteria are to address problems of acidity and compaction, ensure good.

The Universe Beneath Our Feet: The Soil Food Web

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