Pascual Hernandez
Pascual Hernandez

Heat and drought affect more than the living things surviving on the surface of the land.

They also affect important life forms within the soil- the soil microbes.

These are absolutely essential to good soil health and play a key role in helping keep plants healthy and productive.

The soil supports a large diversity of micro-organisms.

Some are parasitic, and feed on the roots of plants.

However, the vast majority are beneficial and help keep soils healthy. Soil microbes are key to nutrient cycling and the decomposition of plant material.
They also influence plant health through their abilities to fix nitrogen, cause plant disease, inhibit the development of plant disease, and enhance plant nutrient uptake.

These microorganisms are part of an intricate system of tiny creatures which recycle vital plant nutrients and maintain the basic soil structure.
There are three major types of microorganisms.

These three groups of microbes make up a major part of the food chain group called primary decomposers.

They are responsible for 60-80% of all chemical reactions in the soil.

The first type are bacteria.

Bacteria decompose a wider range of earth material than any other microbe group.

Some bacteria can fix nitrogen into forms plants can use.

The second group are actinomycetes- a specific type of fungi with an amazing ability to survive and function at extremely high soil temperatures.

They can also break down some very tough soil materials, such as the shells of insects.

One type, Frankia, help plants get nutrients needed from the air by breaking down nitrogen into ammonium that plants can use.
The final group is made up of the other types of fungi.

They are great survivors and can tolerate dry soil conditions. They decompose resistant materials and bind soil particles together with their rope-like filaments.

Fungi are able to break down resistant materials such as cellulose, gums, and lignin. They dominate in acidic, sandy soils and in fresh organic matter.
Microorganisms improve a soil’s ability to absorb water and exchange air with the atmosphere.

As bacteria work in the soil, some of the products that they secrete act as a cement to hold soil particles together.

This process helps keep the pore spaces between the individual soil particles open for easy entrance of water and air.

Other tasks that microbes perform include buffering soil pH, helping make nutrients more available and lowering salt concentrations.

How quickly dead organic matter decomposes depends on soil temperature and soil moisture.

A moist, but not saturated, soil environment is ideal. Without the microbes, compost and other organic litter like dead plant residue would end up as no more than sterile, lifeless trash.

And so we wait for quenching rain.