Current research shows how important bacteria in the body are to human health. We need beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms to help us digest food and to keep harmful microbes out. We eat certain bacteria-rich foods to maintain digestive health, in the form of probiotic yogurt, kefir, supplements and some fermented foods. These microorganisms digest food that our stomachs can’t handle, like some carbohydrates, and they multiply and fill all available space so that germs cannot find room to flourish.
Plants also need beneficial microbes to maintain health. Just like bacteria in our intestines help to break our food into a more usable form, microbes (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes) in the soil break down nutrients to make them usable for the plants!
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The microorganisms break down organic matter in the soil into small, usable parts that plants can uptake through their roots.
A healthy, thriving microbial population in the soil will crowd out parasitic and harmful microbes, like the root-rot nematode. Most beneficial microbes are substantially stronger than destructive organisms. This is the case with good nematodes versus bad nematodes and with the nasty fungus that frequently attacks cool season turf during the summer. Good nematodes and fungi will actually devour, or sometimes lasso and choke the weaker, dastardly ones and this is the most effective and permanent way to address these frustrating garden problems. Traditionally, toxic chemicals have been used to treat these problems. The chemicals have not only been ineffective, but by killing good and bad soil life simultaneously, they put you on a treadmill and almost guarantee that you will have the same problem every year. Additionally, microbes help the plant defend against air-borne pathogens, like rust, or insects, like aphids. A plant growing in living soil can better protect itself against invaders.
More microbes in the soil means increased bioavailability for plants. A plant that intakes lots of minerals from the soil is a plant with increased growth, larger fruit production and higher sugar content.