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Soil microbes

Soil microbes are the immune system that protects plants, crops from disease

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: soil microbes, crops, health news

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(NaturalNews) New research conducted by the US Department of Energy (USDE) provides even more proof that synthetic pesticides and herbicides are completely unnecessary when the right balance of natural microbes are present and flourishing in soil. Gary Anderson and his colleagues from both the USDE and Wageningen University in the Netherlands recently discovered that soil microbes act as a type of probiotic, or immune system, for soil, effectively preventing plant diseases from developing.

Published in the journal Science, the study revealed that a diverse array of natural soil microorganisms work together in harmony to suppress harmful pathogens and other invaders, and guard plants against disease. Researchers observed this phenomenon when analyzing a soil sample from a sugar beet field that had become resistant to a certain harmful pathogen.

"Individual organisms have been associated with disease-suppressive soil before, but we demonstrated that many organisms in combination are associated with this phenomenon," said Anderson, noting that the combination of microbes helped to eliminate the fungal infection that had plagued the same sugar beet soil in previous seasons.

Upon analysis of the soil, researchers discovered that many of the usual suspects, including Pseudomonas, Burkholderia, Xanthomonas, and Actinobacteria, were all present in soil samples. These four anti-fungal microbes are already known to help suppress and eliminate plant disease. But what the team also discovered was that a slew of other microbes, many of which have never been known to fight plant disease by themselves, actually work synergistically together with one another to protect plants against infection.

"We now see that the complex phenomenon of disease suppression in soils cannot simply be attributed to a single bacterial group, but is most likely controlled by a community of organisms," added Anderson.

Conventional agriculture methods that involve the heavy use of pesticides and other chemical applications, however, are actually responsible for destroying beneficial soil bacteria. These same methods render the soil basically dead, and fully incapable of supplying protection or nutrients to crops Organic farming methods, on the other hand, help maintain healthy and vital soil conditions, which in turn results in nutritious, disease-protected produce.

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