The Biological Community of Beneficial Biologicals
The population of microbes that dwell in soils can be likened to a social media community like, say for instance, Facebook. You have your “friends.” You “un-friend” people or they “un-friend” you for one reason or another. You may even get booted by the network itself if you commit an atrocious enough transgression. “Invites” are sent out to be a part of a certain group or attend a specific event. You may be “following” certain people without actually interacting with them or “poking” people just to say hello.
Similarly, microbes in soil within and between species form relationships with one another as well as with the plants in attendance at the botanical party; some microbes are friendly toward one another, providing support and bringing out the best in each other while others share a mutual dislike for one another and may even inhibit one another’s success. Still other microbes tolerate one another without getting in each other’s way and just act as passers-by minding their own business.
With the ultimate goal of producing happy, healthy plants, microbes in the soil need to be happy. For microbes to be happy, not unlike employees of a company, they need to be provided an environment of support and encouragement where all of the players can just get along! In doing so microbes can act together as a well-oiled machine working at optimal production. In fact, soil organisms are great indicators of soil quality due to their sensitivity to their environmental conditions.
Mycorrhizal hyphae with bacterial clusters.
We are often trained to believe that bacteria is a bad thing that threatens our health. On the contrary, there are beneficial bacteria that are crucial to the development of healthy plants. These organisms may be tiny, but their impact is significant. Through their own metabolism, various species of bacteria are able to free up critical nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorus that would otherwise be unavailable in a usable form for plants to access. In tandem with bacteria are fungi. Like bacteria, fungi tend to get a bad reputation. Quite the reverse, certain fungi actually benefit plants through the establishment of a symbiotic association in which plants and fungi are able to swap nutrients.