Organic increases soil health, microbial biodiversity on banana plantations

Photo credit: Scot Nelson Photo credit: Scot Nelson

A new study published in Applied Soil Ecology has found large differences in soils and the soil microbial communities that they support. In a three-year study, researchers compared soil characteristics and the functional diversity of soil bacterial populations (the number of groups of species that are unique from each other in how they eat, move, and metabolize) on organic and conventional banana plantations. Organic farms studied had been organic for either 17 or 7 years depending on the farm, while the conventional plantations had been so for almost 40 years.  Organic soils were higher in soil organic matter and water, likely related since increasing soil organic matter is one of the primary ways by which to increase soil’s ability to retain moisture. Organic soils also contained higher functional diversity of fast-growing bacteria.