We are all connected to the land. The ground we walk, live and feed on is essential to both our wellbeing today and for the sustainability of future generations. Today we ask ourselves, how we can use known technologies to make educated decisions about our land and the health of our soils?
Soil health is a complex set of scales that depends on chemical, physical and biological indicators, along with understanding the lands purpose, history and future legacy. Each of these factors need to be integrated to come to an informed understanding about soil health. In the past, farmers and landowners have depended on reports detailing the chemical and physical characteristics of their soils to make decisions about the quality and impact of certain agricultural practices. Today, we are exploring the different tools that can be used to assess the biological attributes of soils, the soil microbiome.
Next-generation sequencing has been instrumental in the exploration of complex ecosystems such as the gut and soil microbiomes. Although research in this area has concentrated on producing descriptive studies that describe diversity as the presence and abundance of different microbes, we are now exploring tools that will allow the study of functional and active diversity, which can be used as a stronger indicator of the balance in an ecosystem.
These interactions in the complex microbial network found in the soil have been the basis not just for my own research, but for the large fields of soil health and agricultural microbiology. We’re now beginning to understand how the interactions between bacteria in the rhizosphere (the soil around a plant’s root) are so crucial for the wellbeing of the plant. This has huge implications for crop science, and therefore has bigger implications still for our growing global community.
If you’d like to find out more about soil and plant health, attend SfAM’s Plant Microbe Interactions conference for free
ECS Welfare Officer
Postdoctoral researcher for the Grow Colombia Project