Microorganisms: A Tool To Revolutionize Agriculture

Years of studies point out that use of synthetic fertilizers can deplete soils of natural microorganisms and nutrients over time, but also provoke water pollution, toxic waste and killing or prevention of weeds. Consequently, implementing plant beneficial microorganisms that will help farmers improve crop yields, reduce disease severity, and totally substitute chemical additives with more natural alternatives is of the utmost importance. Microorganisms found in the soil that we walk on every day can provide the support that farmers and, we as consumers, desperately need. Microorganisms are the necessary step toward supplying farmers with the tools they need to continue feeding the world in a sustainable manner. 


Although microorganisms are regarded by some as pests that harm crops or livestock, they can be, in fact, exceptionally useful. But in what ways? Soil microorganisms do not only aid plant growth by increasing phytomass production, nutrient uptake, photosynthesis rates, and grain yield, but also help prevent disease, reduce plant stress and convert dead plant materials into soil organic matter quickly and efficiently.  


To be more specific, soil microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi form relationships with plant roots, supplying essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. In addition, fungi can repopulate the top parts of plants and produce numerous substantial advantages like drought tolerance, heat tolerance, insect and plant disease resistance. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are a category of soil microbes that form spores and filaments inside and around plant roots to help them acquire phosphate. Applying fungi to cassava plants, a project of Colombian researchers, allows the roots to obtain phosphate without the use of overpriced fertilizers, a major boost in tropical countries where the amount of nutrients that can be obtained from the soil is particularly low.  


Other microorganisms such as Rhizobia, Azospirillum, Bacillus, Pseudomonas, and Trichoderma are also widely utilized in the agricultural world in a similar way. Some evidence even indicates that soil microorganisms can help to fine-tune the flavors of high-quality produce, a phenomenon that has been observed in strawberries in particular.  


Farming methods that include microorganisms also provide farmers with greater flexibility. Plants that have been bioengineered for drought resistance have a problem: they underperform in wet seasons. As a result, farmers must attempt to forecast the weather when selecting seeds at the start of the growing season. However, a combination of microorganisms may allow plants to acclimate even when growing conditions change abruptly. 


Besides the many benefits that microorganisms provide for the soil, they can also lead to higher profits for farmers.


According to some research, organic farms typically require two and a half times the labor of factory farms while yielding ten times the profit. This means that, through this practice farmers will be able to increase their productivity while reducing the overall environmental impact of industrial farming.  


Furthermore, by using this untapped potential of microorganisms and avoiding pathogens, toxins, and other hazardous pollutants, farmers can cultivate fruits, vegetables and other crops which are healthier for consumers and the communities they live in. By adopting this practice, farmers will not only minimize their reliance on chemical use and conserve scarce resources, but will also be able to improve their yearly yield and promote much hardier crops, thanks to the properties of decent, nutrient- rich soil. This helps reduce their reliance on government subsidies while  also strengthening rural communities.  


In short, microorganisms can undoubtedly play a role in revolutionizing agriculture in the coming decades to help meet the demands of a growing population. This microorganism revolution seeks to capitalize on what is already available: as many as 40,000 microbe species in a gram of soil. Soil microorganisms play a key role in helping farmers improve soil fertility, and as a result, their own livelihoods. Nitrogen fixation, acquisition and uptake of major nutrients are just some of the beneficial effects of microorganisms on plant growth. These tiny helpers provide new opportunities for farmers. Besides being able to increase yields by defending crops from specific stresses like insect pests and diseases, they can also help them in improving the overall soil structure and promoting shoot and root growth. By using the benefits that microorganisms offer, farmers can once again  trust the invisible powers of soil as a solution to their challenges and pave the path towards effective farming.