Organic Farming Boosts Key Fungi in Soil Ecosystems

Greg Howard
5th March, 2024

Organic Farming Boosts Key Fungi in Soil Ecosystems

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Study in São Paulo found organic farming boosts beneficial soil microbes more than conventional farming
  • Organic farms had more "keystone" fungi, which are crucial for soil health and plant disease control
  • These fungi in organic systems were linked to an enzyme important for breaking down organic matter
Understanding the unseen world beneath our feet can unlock secrets to healthier crops and more sustainable farming practices. Researchers from São Paulo State University have delved into this microscopic realm, exploring how different farming methods affect the interactions between soil bacteria and fungi, which are crucial for nutrient cycling in agriculture[1]. Their findings shed light on the potential benefits of sustainable farming approaches, particularly organic farming, in fostering beneficial microbial relationships. Soil is a complex environment where countless microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and protists, interact in ways that can significantly influence plant health and crop yields. Previous research has highlighted the importance of protists in soil ecosystems, showing how they can affect the diversity and structure of soil communities by feeding on bacteria and fungi[2]. Similarly, studies have shown that a plant's rhizosphere—the soil region influenced by its roots—can harbor a microbiome that either protects the plant from disease or leaves it vulnerable[3]. These insights suggest that the soil microbiome is a dynamic and influential factor in plant health and agricultural productivity. Building on this knowledge, the São Paulo State University study used advanced DNA sequencing techniques to compare the microbial communities in maize crops grown under conventional and organic farming systems. Their analysis revealed significant differences in the composition of bacteria, fungi, and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi—symbiotic organisms that form close associations with plant roots and help them absorb nutrients. Organic farming systems were found to harbor a greater abundance of microbial taxa associated with healthy soils, such as Nitrosophaerales, Orbiliales, and Glomus. These findings echo previous research in China, which showed that the diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi could be surprisingly high in conventional farming systems, though organic farming favored a different community composition[4]. The study also uncovered that the microbial communities in organic systems were closely linked with β-glucosidase activity, an enzyme involved in breaking down organic matter, whereas the conventional system's communities correlated more with soil pH. This suggests that organic farming may promote microbial functions beneficial for soil health and crop productivity. One of the most striking findings was the role of fungal keystone species—organisms that have a disproportionately large effect on their environment relative to their abundance. The organic farming system's microbial network had more than three times the proportion of fungal keystones compared to the conventional system. These keystone fungi, including genera like Bionectria and Penicillium, are known for their roles in decomposing organic matter and controlling plant diseases. The study's results indicate that organic farming practices may encourage more robust and functional interactions between bacteria and fungi. By fostering these beneficial relationships, organic farming could lead to more resilient agroecosystems capable of supporting healthy crops without relying heavily on chemical inputs. In conclusion, the São Paulo State University research provides compelling evidence that sustainable farming practices, like organic agriculture, can enhance the interactions between soil bacteria and fungi. These interactions are not only essential for nutrient cycling but also for protecting crops against diseases, as seen in the ability of certain rhizosphere microbiomes to suppress soilborne pathogens[3]. While the study adds to our understanding of soil ecology, it also opens up possibilities for improving farming systems to support both productivity and environmental health.



Main Study

1) Organic farming promotes the abundance of fungi keystone taxa in bacteria-fungi interkingdom networks.

Published 2nd March, 2024

Journal: World journal of microbiology & biotechnology

Issue: Vol 40, Issue 4, Mar 2024

Related Studies

2) Trophic interrelationships of bacteria are important for shaping soil protist communities.

3) Small changes in rhizosphere microbiome composition predict disease outcomes earlier than pathogen density variations.

4) Effects of Conventional and Organic Agriculture on Soil Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungal Community in Low-Quality Farmland.

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