The importance of maintaining the health of our soils has gained increasing prominence in recent years. Soils are essential for the global food system and regulate water, carbon and nitrogen cycles but are put under pressure from population growth and climate change.
The UK is estimated to be 30 to 40 years away from “fundamental eradication of soil fertility”, and the UN have warned that if current degradation rates are not reversed there may be less than 60 harvests left in the world’s soil.
Securing soil health is important for achieving all the SDGs as it is vital for life on earth, the SDGs most closely linked are zero hunger (SDG 2), responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), climate action (SDG 13) and life on land (SDG 15).
What is the role of micro-organisms?
Soils are one of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth, with an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 species of micro-organism per gram of soil. Soils are home to a quarter of the world’s biodiversity and micro-organisms play an essential role for maintaining soil health and sustaining many functions vital for life of earth. This includes decontamination of soil through bioremediation, decomposing organic waste and storing carbon, regulating greenhouse gases and important nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
Potential methods for improving soil health through microbiology?
In England and Wales soil degradation costs around £1 billion per year as conventional farming practices and climate change are having detrimental impacts on soil microbiomes. The importance of sustainable land management is growing as we are becoming more aware of methods for supporting soil health. These include methods to increase soil organic matter, reduce chemical inputs, increase the diversity of crops and reduce disturbance.
The quality of soil and its suitability for growing crops has been important since humans developed agriculture. Learn more about soil health and why it is vital for maintaining food security, preserving biodiversity and combatting climate change.
This case study is written by Dr Achim Schmalenberger, who is a Senior Lecturer and Course Director, and Lea Deinert who is a researcher at the University of Limerick, Ireland. They are both members of the Microbiology Society. The focus of this case study is on The European Interreg project ReNu2Farm, which is studying the use of recycling derived fertilisers (RDF) to substitute a portion of the current synthetic fertiliser usage.
This case study is written by Dr Ewen Mullins, who is Head of the Crop Science department at the Agriculture and Food Development Authority (TEAGASC). It focuses on how (TEAGASC) have identified a novel bacterium, which can modify plant characteristics and provide beneficial traits, such as resistance to diseases.
This case study is written by Gareth Raynes, who is a PhD Researcher at Aberystwyth University, UK, and a member of the Microbiology Society. It explores how plants microbiomes have more variability than human microbiomes, and different species, habitats, soils and growth conditions impact upon the microbes present on and within a plant.
This case study is written by Carolin Schulte, who is a Doctoral Student at the University of Oxford, UK, and a member of the Microbiology Society. She explains how her research focuses on how harnessing microbiology to sustainably increase the availability of nitrogen, which, besides phosphorus, is commonly the main limiting factor for plant growth.
This case study is written by Dr Robert Griffiths, who is a Molecular Microbial Ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. It focuses on how, as part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Soil Security Programme, the “U-GRASS” project has questioned how soil microbial communities and the functions they provide are affected by land management.
This case study is written by Oluwatosin Ajibade, who is a lecturer in the Department of Microbiology, and Professor Olubukola Monisola Oyawoye who is a Professor of Microbiology and Dean of the Faculty of Science at Adeleke University, Ede, Nigeria. It outlines the present study which seeks to improve the yield of Amaranhus hybridus, a vegetable common in Nigeria and other West African countries, through the use of plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR).