Adding Microbes to Soil: Native or Non-Indigenous?

There is some debate among growers over whether or not to introduce non-indigenous microbes, or to simply feed the microbes, the native microorganisms, already present in the soil.

Adding Microbes to Soil

In the past few years, many growers have become aware of the importance of adding microbes to soil to stimulate uptake of nutrients, and ultimately, increase crop yields. There is some debate among growers over whether or not to introduce non-indigenous microbes, or to simply feed the microbes, the native microorganisms, already present in the soil.

Introducing non-indigenous microbes 

Some growers are choosing to use soil enhancement products which introduce new, non-indigenous microbes into the soil. Although some of these products may bring some short-term benefits, in the long run, these microbes are not able to survive in an environment populated by existing indigenous microbes which are better adapted to the soil and climactic conditions. “Soil inoculation” is the introduction of non-native microorganisms and/or beneficial bacteria.

A study published by the American Society for Microbiology sheds some interesting light on the lack of effectiveness of soil inoculation. According to the article, “Fate and activity of microorganisms introduced into soil,” soil inoculation is oftentimes not effective.

The article notes, “Inoculation of soils has already been applied for decades, but it has often yielded inconsistent or disappointing results. This is caused mainly by a commonly observed rapid decline in inoculant population activity following introduction into soil, i.e., a decline of the numbers of inoculant cells and/or a decline of the (average) activity per cell.” (“Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews Jun 1997, 61 (2) 121-135; DOI”).

The problem with introducing non-indigenous inoculants is that they cannot compete with the indigenous microbes. The indigenous microbes quickly reproduce and out-compete the non-native microorganisms. Within a period of months, the non-indigenous microbes die off, and whatever beneficial benefit growers received from introducing these new microbes, has resulted in diminishing returns.

Introducing food for indigenous microbes 

A more effective technique, which is resulting in significant higher yields and higher crop sugar content, is introducing liquid nutrient soil amendments, or food for the native microbes, intro the soil. These indigenous microbes are already present in the soil, but are typically present in small or even dormant populations due to the lack of nutrients. In many cases, these depleted soil blocks result in decreased crop yields for growers, and profit margins dipping into the red.

To restore depleted soils to a healthy condition, it is necessary to feed the native microbes in order to wake them up from their dormant state.

When the correct blends of nutrients are applied to the soil, microorganisms in the soil reproduce more rapidly, converting more nutrients for the plant, and causing it to grow faster and generally larger than untreated plants. After the plant grows a leaf, the growth rate of the plant multiplies and the plant produces sugars in the roots for the microbes, which then produce humus. The plant then pumps large amounts of sugar and other molecules that exude, or leak out of the roots. This is bulk food for microbes to build soil humus in the root zone.

Importance of humus for plant growth

According to an Ohio State University Extension article, “Understanding Soil Microbes and Nutrient Recycling,” (ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/SAG-16, Sept. 7, 2010), “Soil organic matter (SOM) is composed of the “living” (microorganisms), the “dead” (fresh residues), and the “very dead” (humus) fractions. The “very dead” or humus is the long-term SOM fraction that is thousands of years old and is resistant to decomposition.”

Humus holds high amounts of water, which is easily taken by the plant, especially in times of drought. Adding the correct nutrients for microbes lets the plant take in the optimum nutrients at the optimum time, allowing it to achieve its full genetic potential.

The article further states, “Soil organic matter has two components called the active (35 percent) and the passive (65 percent) SOM. Active SOM is composed of the “living” and “dead” fresh plant or animal material which is food for microbes and is composed of easily digested sugars and proteins.”

The article points out the importance of frequent replenishment of nutrients, especially in the form of SOM, to the soil. “Microbes need regular supplies of active SOM in the soil to survive in the soil. Long-term no-tilled soils have significantly greater levels of microbes, more active carbon, more SOM, and more stored carbon than conventional tilled soils. A majority of the microbes in the soil exist under starvation conditions and thus they tend to be in a dormant state, especially in tilled soils.”

MultiFIX – The Optimum Food for Microbes

There are several soil amendment products on the market which feed the indigenous microbes in the soil. One of the oldest and most effective of these is MultiFIX®, manufactured by Advanced BioTech (multifix.com) of California.

By feeding the microbes that feed the plant, an effective soil amendment such as MultiFIX® increases the soil nutrients available to the plant, which becomes a sugar factory building each plant cell, resulting in more sugar in the soil to produce more enzymes, organic acids, antibodies and other complex chemicals making it healthier and more productive and providing you with the best crop possible!

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to maintain a regular program of feeding the microbes in the soil, in order to maintain healthy soils which, in turn, produce healthy row crops, fruit and nut trees. The science shows that this worthy attention given to the soil microbes results in higher crop yield, weight, sugar, and ultimately, higher profits.

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