Organic soils harbor higher levels of microbial diversity

Photo credit: Brian Boucheron Photo credit: Brian Boucheron

A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology has found that the soil microbial community in organically managed soils is more diverse than in conventional soils. Researchers sought to understand how management type affected the soil microbial community including organisms known to guard crops against disease by suppressing soil pathogens. Soil samples were collected from the long-term Soil Health Experiment in the Netherlands which has been in cultivation since 1955. One hundred sixty plots were established providing researchers the unique ability to sample plots with few confounding factors. Aside from management techniques, conventional and organic plots were grown grew the same crops, on the same soils and in areas with the same climate. Plots were established in 2006 and soil microbial communities were sampled in 2013. The results found that organically managed plots fostered greater soil microbial diversity than conventionally managed plots, and that soil fertility treatments used in organic resulted in greater abundances of microbes that are known to suppress plant pathogens.