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The 5 things you want to know about bacteria in your soil. Number #4 will keep you awake at night!

When we gaze at a thriving garden or a lush forest, we often see the beauty of plants and the vibrancy of life around us. What we don't see, however, are the billions of tiny microbial powerhouses beneath the surface—soil bacteria. In this blog post, we'll dive deeper into the vital role that soil bacteria play in our ecosystem and their profound impact on human health.



1 Nitrogen Fixation: Fuelling Plant Growth

Nitrogen is one of the fundamental elements required for plant growth. It's a key component of proteins, DNA, and chlorophyll, making it essential for photosynthesis and overall plant health. Soil bacteria, particularly the nitrogen-fixing ones, have a remarkable ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into a form that plants can absorb—ammonium (NH4+) and nitrate (NO3-). This process, called nitrogen fixation, is like a natural fertilizer factory.

The data speaks volumes about the importance of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These microbes are responsible for supplying approximately 65-78% of the nitrogen needed for plant growth in natural ecosystems, according to research by Reed and Martiny in 2007. Without them, our world would be a barren place, devoid of the greenery that sustains life.


2 Decomposition: Nature's Recycling Crew

Imagine a forest floor covered in fallen leaves, or a compost heap teeming with organic matter. Bacteria are the unsung heroes in these scenarios, breaking down dead plants and animals into essential nutrients. Through the process of decomposition, they transform complex organic materials into simpler substances that can be readily absorbed by plants. In doing so, they recycle nutrients and breathe life back into the soil.


3 The Soil Food Web: Bacteria as Building Blocks

Healthy soil is not a barren wasteland but a bustling ecosystem. Bacteria serve as the building blocks of this underground community, forming the foundation of what scientists call the "soil food web." They provide sustenance for a myriad of other microorganisms, such as nematodes and protozoa, which, in turn, become prey for larger creatures. This intricate dance of predation and consumption ensures a balanced and thriving soil ecosystem.


4 Vitamin B12: The Untold Truth

Vitamin B12, often referred to as cobalamin, is indeed a vital component of human health. This essential nutrient plays a pivotal role in DNA synthesis, neurological function, and the formation of red blood cells. While it's widely known for its importance, what often goes unnoticed is its true origin. The story of vitamin B12 is one of nature's best-kept secrets: it is primarily produced by bacteria, not plants or animals.

The conventional narrative has long associated vitamin B12 with meat and animal product, leaving the bacterial origins of this nutrient obscured in the shadows. However, the truth is that these organisms are the sole producers of vitamin B12 in the natural world.

Now, let's delve deeper into the connection between soil bacteria and the vitamin B12 we find in our food supply.

Could be that if our soil lacks the necessary bacterial community, it can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 in the crops we cultivate? As our farmed landscapes and soils continue to degrade, due to our denial in considering soil biology in agriculture, the nutritional content of animal products, too, could be affected. Studies have shown that the vitamin B12 content in animal-derived foods is directly linked to the health of the soil in which their feed is grown.


The consequences are clear: the depletion of our soil microbiome not only affects the availability of vitamin B12 in plant-based foods but also diminishes its presence in animal products.

According to Dr Jennifer Rooke: “In order to maintain meat (as) a source of b12 the meat industry now adds it to animal feed, 90% of b12 supplements produced in the world are fed to livestock. The Framingham Offspring study found that 39 per cent of the general population may be in the low normal and deficient B12 blood level range, and it was not just vegetarians or older people. This study showed no difference in the B12 blood levels of younger and older adults. Most interestingly there was no difference between those who ate meat, poultry, or fish and those who did not eat those foods.

As a result, we're faced with a dual challenge: restoring the ability of our soil's bacteria to produce this essential nutrient and simultaneously addressing the nutritional deficiency that extends to both plant and animal-based diets.


5 The Microbiome Connection: Gut Health and Happiness

Soil bacteria not only influence the health of plants but also affect the well-being of animals, including humans. When we consume fresh, organically grown produce rich in soil bacteria, we're indirectly nourishing our gut microbiome. Emerging studies highlight the critical role of a diverse gut microbiome in maintaining our overall health, from digestion to immune function.

Furthermore, certain soil bacteria, like Mycobacterium vaccae, have been linked to improved mental health. These microbes release compounds that stimulate the release of serotonin in our brains, often referred to as the "feel-good" neurotransmitter. Thus, spending time in nature, gardening, or working with soil can contribute to our happiness and mental well-being.



The Dark Side: Harmful Bacteria and Soil Health

Not all bacteria in the soil are friendly. Some thrive in oxygen-depleted conditions, indicating that the soil is on its way to becoming anaerobic. This shift can create an environment conducive to the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause diseases in plants and even pose a threat to human health. Thankfully, in well-balanced soil with good oxygen levels and biodiversity, predators and beneficial bacteria help keep these harmful microbes in check.


Take Action: Identifying Your Soil's Microbial Balance

If you're a grower, knowing what bacteria inhabit your soil is key. Our microscopy test can help you identify the microbial composition of your soil, allowing you to restore the right balance for your crops.

By nurturing your soil, you not only guarantee healthy and nutritious food but also contribute to the well-being of the entire ecosystem, from the underground world of bacteria to your own happiness. So, let's turn dirt into soil!



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