The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

Soil Organisms: A Whole World Beneath Our Feet


microbes, soil, mycorrhizal, fungi, bacteria, scientific american, agriculture, drought, GMOs, fertilizer

Dirty Microbes by Molly Michelson explores the importance of soil organisms:

Soil microbes include everything from bacteria to fungi, and article author Richard Conniff likes to call the lot collectively “the agribiome.” These microscopic life forms have the potential to solve many crises facing agriculture today—everything from climate change and drought to Salmonellaand other food-bourn illnesses, from the costs of man-made fertilizers to the GMO controversy.
Conniff’s article comes on the heels two other papers that highlight the importance of soil microbes. In a paper published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of British scientists emphasizes how important soil microbe diversity is for European crops. And two weeks ago, American researchers determined that soil microbes are responsible for controlling carbon in the soil—an important factor in retaining the important mineral in the dirt as temperatures rise and the climate warms.
The lead author of the PNAS paper, Franciska de Vries, says, ‘This research highlights the importance of soil organisms and demonstrates that there is a whole world beneath our feet, inhabited by small creatures that we can’t even see most of the time. By liberating nitrogen for plant growth and locking up carbon in the soil they play an important role in supporting life on Earth.’

Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

3 thoughts on “Soil Organisms: A Whole World Beneath Our Feet

  1. I’m thrilled to learn these microbes may begin to take their rightful place in our awareness of ‘earth care’. I’ve never tried to actually learn about them but have been mindful of them for years. I often mention to people I know who use herbicides and pesticides that they’re putting ‘the little guys in the soil’ at risk, which of course, puts all that depend on them at risk also! I remind them of at least one of the ‘bigger guys’ (earthworm), and of the robin who eats that worm. This is a very good and very welcome article – Thank you!

    • This article may also be of interest to you: I’ll post it when I have a minute. In the meantime, let me know what you think.

      • Thanks for the link – looks a very interesting and informative site. My brain is a bit fried – have scarcely moved from keyboard for about 6 hrs as I’m struck by the horrible irony of our likely decision to use of violence in Syria – a decision happening in same time-frame as our celebration, honoring, and recalling wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King. We seem oblivious to these contradictions. I’ve been trying to find a way to ‘boost’ our attention.

        Perhaps whatever causes obliviousness to wisdom in our foreign policy thinking might be involved in our work improve food plant species. Favored ‘memes’ drive the defined parameters of ‘a problem’ and and it solutions? Attachment to highly sophisticated technology can have an emotional component?

        I found the article raised questions that I need to give more thought to (and possibly pick up some better background understanding). I couldn’t tell if some of the comments – especially those wanting to assure GE a place – involved a lot of “confirmation bias” or not.

        One thing I do like about the article is that if/when you post it – it gives us ‘non-scientists’ a glimpse into the questions, research, and possible developments happening in food plant science. I think it’s always good to have at least a general notion of what’s going on ‘on behalf of humanity and earth’ in science, economics, and social planning.

        Hope this bit of feedback has some kind of value!

        Best- MaggieAnn

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