A Ciliophora x 1000.
A Ciliophora x 1000.

In celebration of the International Year of Soil 2015 (IYS), the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is coordinating a series of activities throughout the year to educate the public about the importance of soil. July’s theme is “Soils Are Living”. In SSSA’s July 15 Soils Matter blog post, experts explain the positive role soil bacteria play in our daily lives.

According to Mary Stromberger, “there are millions of different types of microbes that live in the soil. Organisms that cause diseases reside in soils. But, those “bad” bacteria live amongst the good bacteria, fungi and other animal life in the soil—which is called biodiversity. This variety of life in soil helps keep things balanced. Thus, most of the time, soil microbes are beneficial to the environment, rather than being a threat.” Stromberger is a soil scientist with Colorado State University.

Soil bacteria are necessary for soil health. The convert naturally occurring chemicals—like nitrogen from the air—into food that plants can use. They help to recycle chemical elements from decomposing plants and animals. Ultimately, those nutrients get into our diets in the form vegetables and fruits. So, when you are enjoying your lunch, be thankful to the hard-working soil bacteria that work hard for your health! Below is the blog post by Mary Stromberger, Colorado State University
 

Question: Is it true bacteria live in the soil? Isn’t that bad?

Answer: The greatest number of living creatures in soils is those you can’t see with the human eye. Although small, the activity of these organisms is vital for life as we know it. There are more microbes in a handful of soil than there are humans on the earth. Microbes, like bacteria and fungi, depend on soil for their homes-but it’s not all bad! These microbes decompose organic matter in the soil, returning nutrients to the soil that plants can use. They aid in the weathering of rocks and minerals which release important nutrients for plant growth.

Many fungi are important to the recycling of chemical elements that would otherwise remain locked up in dead plants and animals. Certain fungi are crucial in the decomposition of plant debris. They use carbon and energy that come from the breakdown of dead and decaying plants.

Bacteria are able to perform an extremely wide range of chemical transformations including degradation of organic matter, and nutrient transformations inside roots. These processes are crucial to growing a healthy food supply.

In general, bacteria are the organisms in soil that are mainly responsible for changing inorganic molecules from one chemical form to another, like nitrogen gas into ammonium. Other organisms, such as plants, may use some of the byproducts of bacteria’s “eating”. The bacteria gain nutrients and energy from these processes and provide other organisms with suitable forms of chemicals they require for their own processes.

There are millions of different types of microbes that live in the soil. Organisms that cause diseases like anthrax and listeriosis reside in soils. But, those “bad” bacteria live amongst the good bacteria, fungi and other animal life in the soil—which is called biodiversity. This variety of life in soil helps keep things balanced. Thus, most of the time, soil microbes are beneficial to human health, rather than being a threat.