Video Credit: Morehead Planetarium & Science Center
The Competing Needs
In recent times, agricultural productivity has significantly declined due to a number of factors such as environmental degradation, negative effects of climate change and global warming, reduced size of arable land due to the growing population, competing demands for natural resources, soil degradation as a result of harmful human activities, among other factors. Soil is a critical mass that supports all life on earth and without it life on earth will not be feasible.
The Magic of Soil Microorganisms
Soil microbiome play a significant role in creating soil ecological balance and improving plant nutrition and the plants are part of a vibrant ecosystem that comprises numerous and different microbes that thrive in the soil. These microorganisms, including fungi and nitrogen-fixing symbiotic bacteria have been critical in contributing to crop health and yield by improving mineral nutrition to the crops. With the modern day advancements in research and innovations, it has now been discovered that these organisms also have other uses and can play a significant role in replacing synthetic agricultural inputs.
With utmost considering of the challenges that the agricultural sector is facing, advancing research into soil microbiomes could be one of the fundamental solutions that would create a significant impact in increasing agricultural productivity and sustainability in order to feed the growing world population that is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050. Coupled with the global climate crisis, the increasing population has spurred the demand for biofuels which must be produces in adequate quantities without reducing food production.
As it is now, the amount of arable land has reduced due to the soaring population and demand for natural resources. To compound the challenges, the available arable soils have been polluted with harmful chemicals, exhausted with over-cultivation and degraded through erosion. Continued use of fertilizers have also not had shown a great change in improving soil health since a considerable amount of these fertilizer nutrients have been shown to be poorly absorbed by crops. Therefore, advancing research for better understanding of soil microbes remains as part of the core initiatives to effectively improve soil health and efficiently increasing agricultural production minimal disturbance and harm to the ecosystem.
Race Against Time
Time is critical and the race to achieving a sustainable farming is highly dependent on how soon the foundation for deeper soil research will be laid to determine how soil microbiome affect the absorption and uptake of plant nutrients.