The Importance Of Diversity Within Crops And Their Microbial Symbionts

1260 Words6 Pages
As the world’s population continues to grow, there is a mounting urgency regarding the lack of long-term sustainability of modern agricultural systems. The prevalence of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and monocultures reflect food production systems that not only require constant human intervention, but also lack internal regulation. To address these economic and environmental issues, one key strategy would be to enhance the biodiversity in agroecosystems in order to model the homeostasis present in natural ecosystems. By understanding the importance of diversity within crops and their microbial symbionts, agroecosystems can benefit from a variety of natural services including nutrient cycling, soil fertility, and enhanced protection…show more content…
Microflora including fungi, bacteria, and actinomycetes are responsible for breaking down organic matter and releasing available nutrients to plants (Altieri, 1999). Bacteria play a further role in nitrogen fixation, converting atmospheric nitrogen into usable organic forms and back to gaseous nitrogen in a cyclic manner. In addition to nutrient cycling, the macrofauna of the soil biota also influence soil structure. Organisms such as isopods, centipedes and earthworms are able to physically mix organic and mineral particles, redistributing both organic matter and microorganisms. Thus, the macrofauna promote nutrient availability and soil fertility throughout large amounts of soil. Given the dependence of soil fertility on a range of soil constituents playing various fundamental roles, it can be said that sustained agricultural productivity depends heavily on soil biodiversity.
Enhanced soil fertility and the availability of nutrients complement the natural service of crop protection. Associated with high levels of organic matter in soils is a noticeable enhancement of natural pathogen protection and biocontrol. Suppression of disease often correlates with an increase in microbial activity, with disease suppressive soils showing higher populations of bacteria and actinomycetes. Because of this, crop protection may be attributed in part to the microbial community of the rhizosphere,
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