How much life lives in a tiny bit of soil? A lot, according to Sarah Strauss, assistant professor at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).
“The estimate I often mention is there can be over a billion microorganisms in a gram of soil, which is about this size of a quarter,” she said during the most recent episode of the All In For Citrus podcast. “Now that can vary a bit based on the soil type, but there is a huge number of microorganisms — bacteria, fungi and more — that have a huge amount of diversity.”
Florida’s sandy soils may not have as much organic diversity as other soil types, but there is still plenty of life in them. Strauss has been studying ways to improve soil microbial activity and organic matter with cover crops and compost applications.
These two practices have been in the spotlight in recent years as some growers have reported improved health of HLB-infected citrus trees as a result. Strauss detailed her research during the podcast.
She has been studying cover crops in citrus for a couple of years and trying to quantify the benefits of the practice. “We have seen some big changes in the abundance of bacteria and fungi in general where you plant cover crops. You see them (in greater abundance) in the row middles where the cover crops are planted.”
According to Strauss, all components of the nitrogen cycle are impacted by the planting of cover crops. Her research now is focused on how these changes are actually impacting the tree and potential productivity.
To hear more about her research on cover crops and what’s she’s learned about the benefits of compost applications, listen to the latest episode of All In For Citrus. The podcast is a joint partnership between UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.
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