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

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.

A Cilophora

A Ciliophora x 1000. Credit: Tom Loynachan

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.

A Water Bear

A Water Bear x 1000. Credit: Tom Loynachan

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.

-Answered by Mary Stromberger, Colorado State University

Watch our SSSA Soils Are Living YouTube video for more information here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qas9tPQKd8w

More educational materials can be found on various SSSA websites:

http://soils4teachers.org/  (K-12 Lesson Plans and Activities)

http://soils4kids.org  (Just for kids!)

http://soils.org/iys (International Year of Soils, with a coloring book and monthly ideas for teachers and scientists!)

Subscribe to SSSA’s Soils Matter blog posts to get monthly answers to common soils-related questions: https://soilsmatter.wordpress.com/

Become a Friend of Soil Science (no charge) at: https://www.soils.org/membership/friends-of-soil-science/

Dig in further with a free trial membership at https://www.soils.org/membership/become-a-member/trial/

Sources:
http://www.soilhealth.see.uwa.edu.au/components/fungi

http://grounds-mag.com/mag/grounds_maintenance_living_earth/

Advertisements

8 responses to “Is it true bacteria live in the soil? Isn’t that bad?

  1. Pingback: Is it true bacteria live in the soil? Isn’t that bad? | Soils Matter, Get the Scoop! | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS·

  2. Pingback: What happens to soil in winter? Does everything die? | Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!·

  3. Pingback: What is the effect of leaving some of the vegetable crops up over the winter—how does that improve soil conditions? | Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!·

  4. Pingback: How do soil microbes affect soil health and nutrient availability? | Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!·

  5. Pingback: How are biosolids used in cities? | Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!·

  6. Pingback: How do forests recover from fires? | Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!·

  7. Pingback: When does rock become soil? | Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!·

  8. Pingback: What are Alaska’s soils telling us? | Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s