Plants Feed Microbes to Get the Nutrients They Need

A few weeks ago we talked about how plants can adjust their root exudate to encourage microbes to provide them with more nutrients during times of stress. Today, we're looking at another way that plants and microbes interact to ensure that plants get the nutrients they need from the soil. While plants can get carbon, nitrogen and sulphur from the atmosphere, other critical nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus must come from the soil. As Dr. Brinton describes in the 2:38 video below, these nutrients are released and become available to plants thanks to the work of microbes in the soil. As the microbes consume root exudate, and other organic matter in the soil, they respire carbon dioxide. Some of this carbon dioxide returns to the atmosphere, but some is trapped in the air space of the soil. That carbon dioxide dissolves in water becoming carbonic acid. This gentle weathering agent dissolves and releases minerals that the plants can then use. As Dr. Brinton mentions, we've been aware of this mechanism for some time. In fact, as I was doing background research for this article I found this article by Charles B. Lipman in  the January 23, 1916 edition of the Sacramento Union. In it, Lipman describes how he learned of the relationships of "soil bacteriology" and the production of carbonic acid. He adds that we can enhance microbe activity by providing plenty of organic matter. It seems that the more thing

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One thought on “Plants Feed Microbes to Get the Nutrients They Need

  1. Fascinating article and video clip. I am always impressed at 1)how much older knowledge and experience has “gone missing,” and 2)how you manage to find it back for us. Thank you.

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