Bacteria And Fungi

The soil contains millions of micro-organisms which are dominated by bacteria and fungi. They play a major role in crop health and preventing soil diseases. They are both necessary part of the ecosystem and help with the availability of plant nutrients and plant health. By building up your soil organic matter it will increases plant nutrient availability, water-holding capacity and improves soil structure. Management of soil organic matter is therefore a major part of your farm practices.

Microbial biomass is the living part of organic matter in the soil. The microbial biomass mainly consists of bacteria and fungi, which has active and inactive parts.

They carry out the decomposition of plant residues, breaking them down and holding the nutrients in their bodies, glued and bound to soil particles, this prevents the nutrients leaching out into the soil. At this point the nutrients aren’t available to the plants. They hold onto these nutrients until protozoa, nematodes, small micro arthropods, and earthworms consume individuals of bacteria and fungi and release nutrients in plant available forms. The nutrients are released to the plants in the right amount & form only when the plants require the nutrients. The plants protect the own root system from pathogen and pest attack by excrete foods for bacteria and fungi which are a food source for the beneficial species.

The Different Roles Of Bacteria And Fungi

They have different roles in the recycling of nutrients. Fungi are generally much more efficient at consumering and storing nutrients than bacteria. One reason for this is the chemical composition of fungi cell walls. They are composed of polymers of chitin and melanin, making them very resistant to degradation, thus they are able to store a lot more, especially micronutrients like Ca, and making macro aggregates which form air passageways and hallways to allow air and water to move into the soil, and to allow good drainage. Bacterial membranes, in comparison, are phospholipids, which are energy-rich, degrade easily and quickly. They also function as a food source for a wide range of microorganisms. The different proportions of C and nitrogen (N) (i.e. different C: N ratios) of bacteria and fungi might also play a role in the mineralization and immobilization processes of nutrients in the soil. Due to their structure, fungi need a greater amount of carbon to grow and reproduce and will therefore 'collect' the required amount of carbon available for this from the soil organic matter. Bacteria, however, have a higher nitrogen requirement and therefore a lower C: N ratio and take more nitrogen from the soil for their own requirements.

To feed up the numbers of fungi that is in your soil you need to add fungal foods such as dead leaf material, woody material, Fish hydrolysate (also a bacterial food), and N and other micronutrients. Wood, sawdust, bark, paper and cardboard can be used as well, but diversity is the key.

If activity is low, then bacterial foods need to be added to increase growth rates and improve numbers. A diversity of foods needs to be added, and thus molasses is a much better choice than white sugar. Fish hydrolysate (also a fungal food), and N and other micronutrients. Fruit juices can be used as well, but diversity is the key.

As again is important to add a good quality compost or compost tea or soil inoculate to keep your numbers up. All composts contain a good range of bacteria, fungi & micro-organism. So it’s important to keep adding these products to your soil to build up bacteria & fungi numbers.

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