The role that soil microbes (archaea, bacteria, and fungi) play in soil nutrient availability is an interesting area, one where we have much to explore. Biofertilizers are increasingly available commercially, meaning those of us outside the academic community will have increasing opportunity to conduct our own reseach. From Montana State University:
Some soil bacteria and fungi can access otherwise unavailable phosphorus, and some are commercially available. In a study on barley, one of these bacteria increased phosphorus availability by about 10 percent. In another study, a phosphate-solubilizing fungus was found to increase spring wheat grain yield by nine percent. "For both studies, the economics need to be considered to determine if these increases are worthwhile, and additional research is needed to determine the effectiveness of these products for different crops and soils," Jones said.
Growing your own biofertilizer may not be that difficult, depending on what it is you are trying to grow. Pictured is some compost tea starter I am "growing" for tomorrow's 36 hour run of actively aerated compost tea. I am going for a fungi-rich tea. Since the aerated tea process favors population growth of bacteria (and, one would think, archaea) over fungi, I am giving the fungi a boost before I start the tea. To 2 cups of compost, I have mixed in 3 tbs oat bran (the white flecks) and 1 tsp of T and J Enterprises (Spokane, WA)'s trichoderma rich "Soil Life & Activator" mix. As you can see the fungi is doing mighty fine. My first couple runs at promoting fungi growth were not as successful. By the looks of this one I am starting to get the hang of it.
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