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Soil: Microbes: A Big (small) Bug Deal that’s Really Good for Urban Gardens


I’ll say that if Monsanto is involved I’m both scared and comfortable that if they see a benefit, read $$$, then it is a BIG DEAL and we need only to create a natural alternative. In previous school studies we had to create natural microbes and they do great work in the urban garden soil. Soil science is sorely lacking in urban gardening. I’m not speaking about cultivating a yard of “garden blend” soil into the garden bed, although that can be of some benefit. There is a lot of core soil science you need to understand before a remedy is applied to a small or large soil bed. We at Landscapia understand that managing the core components; soil, water and plant location (sun) are the keys to a naturally healthy landscape.


Bugs in the system

Bacteria and fungi can help crops and soil

MICROBES, though they have a bad press as agents of disease, also play a beneficial role in agriculture. For example, they fix nitrogen from the air into soluble nitrates that act as natural fertilizer. Understanding and exploiting such organisms for farming is a rapidly developing part of agricultural biotechnology.
At the moment, the lead is being taken by a collaboration between Monsanto and Novozymes, a Danish firm.
This consortium, called BioAg, began in 2013 and has a dozen microbe-based products on the market. These include fungicides, insecticides and bugs that liberate nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium compounds from the soil, making them soluble and thus easier for crops to take up. Last year, researchers at the two firms tested a further 2,000 microbes, looking for species that would increase maize and soyabean yields. The top-performing strains delivered a boost of about 3% for both crops.
In November 2015 Syngenta and DSM, a Dutch company, formed a similar partnership. And earlier that year, in April, DuPont bought Taxon Biosciences, a Californian microbes firm. And hopeful start-ups abound. One such is Indigo, in Boston. Its researchers are conducting field tests of some of its library of 40,000 microbes to see if they can alleviate the stress on cotton, maize, soyabeans and wheat induced by drought and salinity. Another is Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies, of Seattle. The scientists who formed this firm study fungi that live symbiotically within plants. They believe they have found one, whose natural partner is panic grass, a coastal species, which confers salinity-resistance when transferred to crops such as rice.
The big prize, however, would be to persuade the roots of crops such as wheat to form partnerships with nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria. These would be similar to the natural partnerships formed with nitrogen-fixing bacteria by legumes such as soyabeans. In legumes, the plants’ roots grow special nodules that become homes for the bacteria in question. If wheat rhizomes could be persuaded, by genomic breeding or genome editing, to behave likewise, everyone except fertilizer companies would reap enormous benefits.

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