Did you know that there are typically 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil and a million bacterial cells in a millilitre of fresh water?
Bacteria is absolutely essential to all life above the ground as we know it in this world.
Our world is calculated to be 4.6 billion years old and the oldest fossilised bacteria which has been found was in Australia and is about 3.5 billion years old. Even the air we breathe only came into existence 2.5 billion to 600,000 million years ago.
Bacteria are to be found everywhere. Bacteria can be found in soil and water, in thermal steaming hot water springs, in the freezing cold ice of the Poles, in radioactive waste, 1000’s of metres down under the earth’s crust as well as in organic matter and in the bodies of plants and animals. Bacteria on earth form much of the world’s biomass and are vital in recycling nutrients, with many steps in nutrient cycles depending on these organisms.
Just what are bacteria and what is their role in agriculture?
Among the hundreds of species of beneficial soil bacteria there are groups that will pull nitrogen out of the air in the soil and put it into a liquid form that is available to feed plants which cannot fix nitrogen themselves. When there are sufficient nitrogen-fixing bacteria in a soil, the need for fertilizer is dramatically reduced.
Other bacteria will decompose organic matter and even break down pesticide residues if they are in your soil. Soil bacteria will actually reduce soil compaction by improving soil structure creating microscopic spaces or rooms in the soil to hold air or water. Beneficial soil bacteria will suppress soil pathogens that cause disease in your plants, reducing the need any commercial remedies.
Whilst the vast majority of the bacteria are rendered harmless by the protective effects of a healthy system and a few are beneficial, such as in the production of cheese and yoghurt through fermentation, a few species of bacteria are pathogenic and are the cause of many diseases. In an unhealthy soil, pathogens or “bad” bacteria can cause leaf spot, fire blight and wilting in plants, as well as Johne’s disease, mastitis, salmonella and anthrax in farm animals.
In agriculture many strains become resistant to treatment and the resultant war on these bacteria by using a product to remedy the problem, usually a chemical product designed to kill the particular disease, only leads to more problems. To kill the bacteria often only gives temporary relief as often the problem reoccurs and persists or another problem occurs and another product is used to deal with it!
In agriculture as seen, bacteria are paramount to a healthy living soil. They are part of “the bridge”, the connectors of soil’s nutrients and moisture to the plant root.