Organic farming supports soil microbes

Photo credit: Brian Boucheron

It’s the little teeny things in our soils – the invisible-to-the-eye microorganisms -- that make a big difference. Studies from across the globe demonstrated that organic farming systems boost a soil’s microbial diversity, and create more of the beneficial microbes that fight off the disease-causing ones. A study in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology looked at soil samples taken from 160 organic and conventional sample plots in the long-term Soil Health Experiment in the Netherlands and found that the microbial community in organically managed soils is more diverse than in conventional soils. The organic plots were also found to foster more of the microbes that suppress plant pathogens. Another 3-year study in Applied Soil Ecology found that organic banana plantations have better soil health and more microbial diversity than their conventional counterparts and a study from researchers in Sweden found that organic grain fields housed a greater diversity of beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi – which increase water and nutrient uptake in crops – than conventional grain fields.