Soil Microbes: The Workhorses of the Nutrient Cycle
These tiny organisms may not seem like much, but they are the foundation of the soil food web. Bacteria help build the structure of the soil and break down nutrients locked up in soil particles.
Bacteria are a food source for higher level organisms.
Bacterial dominated soils are usually more alkaline and favor weed growth, so it is important to monitor your F:B (fungal to bacteria) ratio.
Bacteria: The Tiny building blocks of soil
The benefits mentioned below assume aerobic (oxygen rich) conditions.
How Bacteria Help Build Structure
Bacteria produce a glue that adheres to mineral particles and build microaggregates. As more microaggregates form, the soil structure improves. Even heavy clay soils will become more permeable! Once fungi take part in this process and make macroaggregates, the structure of the soil improves even faster!
Bacteria release enzymes that break down organic matter.
This work the biology does, is destroyed when the soil is disturbed. Tilling to ‘fluff’ your soils is counter productive to building good soils structure.
How Bacteria Help Plants Thrive
The aggregates made by bacteria can pull and hide toxins inside the structure. Bacteria team up with fungi and colonize the root zone which prevents disease and pests from gaining access to the plants roots.
Are you struggling with weeds?
Bacterial dominated soils grow weeds really well. This type of soil is early in succession. Often the soils have been recently disturbed (tilled, compacted). Weeds produce predominantly bacteria food at their root zone. Adding biologically rich compost will move the soil along the successional ladder. Adding more fungi is the first step.
Our standard practice of using herbicides to manage our weeds isn’t a solution, but a bandaid. Herbicides kill more fungi than bacteria, creating even greater bacterial dominance in the soil. And we know, bacterially dominated soils favor weed growth.
To Sum It Up
- Anaerobic (oxygen deprived) soils breed the harmful bacteria.
- If you struggle with weeds, your soils have too much bacteria in relation to fungi.
- Using herbicides make this F:B ratio even worse.
- Adding biologically dense compost brings more balance and your soil will favor more desirable plants
- Bacteria work with fungi at the plant root zone to protect it from pests and diseases and exchange nutrients with the plants.
- Bacteria create the foundation of good soil structure.