Probiotics for plants
Chances are you have heard about the benefits of probiotics, and the great effects they can have on human health. Research regarding the positive effects probiotics have on the human (and animal) digestive system is hard to ignore. Well, your plants have “stomachs” too! The soil functions as the plant’s stomach and due to a lack of other digestive organs, plants are even more dependent on microbes than us. Research regarding soil science and the importance of these microbes is quickly progressing. Paying attention to the quality of your soil and the microbial life brings many benefits. Beneficial microbes process organic matter so it can be used by the plant. They then help ensure nutrients are retained by plants and not washed away. Finally, these beneficial bacteria and fungi help deliver nutrients to the plant; they act as a sort of living plumbing system. However, the benefits of microbes are not limited simply to the plant digestive system. Naturally occurring beneficials (including bacteria and nematodes) help ward off common plant pests. A healthy population of soil organisms can out compete the enemy pathogens! Additionally, like humans, healthy plants with a good diet are less susceptible to disease causing pests and maladies.
To increase the beneficial life in your soil and obtain these benefits there are two approaches: bio-stimulation and bio-supplementation. Bio-stimulation is maintaining and increasing the microorganisms that are already in the soil. Bio-supplementation is adding beneficial microorganisms. The first option (and the easiest and cheapest method) is to stop doing things which destroy soil biology such as the use of insecticides and fungicides. Because these controls are non-specific they kill the good guys in your soil along with the bad. Another method (of bio-stimulation) is to use products that add organic matter and micro-nutrients to your soil. Examples of excellent fertilizers to use to increase microbes in the soil include fish, seaweed (kelp) and manure. There are also many products on the market that are more consistent is terms of the levels of microorganisms. These products may contain various species of bacteria (Bacillus species, for example) or fungi (various Mycorrhizal species or Trichoderma are common). There are multiple products on the market that can be used directly as biological control agents, or biological pesticides, when diseases or pests are present.
Treating your soil to maximize microbial life is smart and cost-effective. By ensuring healthy soil life, you can grow better plants that are naturally equipped to fight diseases. You will be able to reduce fertilizer use which can save money and reduce the risk of run-off. This is a smart and natural way to increase and improve plant and turf growth while reducing the need for potentially toxic and harmful chemicals.
Want to read more about nematodes? See our other blog posts here.