Microbiology and the Agriculture Industry: A Brief Overview

How do Microbiology and the Agriculture Industry go Hand in Hand?

By Brittany Cotton, writing on behalf of Microbial Insights

The agriculture industry is a vital part of any nation. It allows for producing food, substance for industrial development, and resource use. With numerous agricultural processes taking place in various countries worldwide, there is increasing emphasis on new technologies that can help reduce these impacts and improve efficiency while still meeting the demand for food throughout society. Microbiology is a science that supports agriculture. Bugs and pests can cause significant losses in the agriculture sector, so the study of microbes plays an essential role in helping to protect against loss.

Benefits Of Microbiology And The Agriculture Industry

Microbiology has a pivotal role in the agriculture industry because of all the benefits it offers. Microbes help to improve productivity and help fight pests. In addition, microbiology increases food security and helps to prevent toxins in agriculture. Surprisingly, microbiology helps to mitigage natural disatsters that could be detrimental to the agriculture industry and assists in rehabilitation. The agriculture industry would not be the same without the numerous advantages microbiology provides to it, and since the agriculture industry impacts other industries, microbiology has true benefits on a global scale.

1. Improves Productivity

Microbes, such as bacteria and fungi, remove nutrients and water from the soil to make it more fertile. Also, microbes can use carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which would otherwise turn into toxic compounds. Since microbial processes in soil affect both the productivity and sustainability of different crops, microbes impact food security by increasing crop output. Even though microbes are often microscopic and cannot typically be seen, they play a pivotal role in increasing productivity in the agriculture industry.

2. Increases Food Security

Microbes are helpful because they help in the decomposition process, producing nutrients like nitrogen and other essential chemicals. Without microbes, it would be impossible for plants to survive. Truffles and mushrooms, which rely on fungal microbes to grow, are an example of a food source dependent on soil microbial processes. About 1/4 of the world’s population is estimated to depend on plants for food. With the help of microbes, agriculture can provide more food without needing more farmland.

3. Helps Fight Pests

Because fungi and bacteria can inhibit pests at certain stages of their lifecycle, they play an essential role in crop protection industries. For example, when a bug accidentally ingests a fungus or bacterium in its gut, its digestive system is interfered with or stops functioning. The pest can no longer access food or water without a developed digestive system. Agricultural pests are a significant problem that can destroy entire fields and crops, leading to millions of dollars in losses. By utilizing microbiology, scientists and researchers can develop new methods to help fight pests and diseases that affect plants.

4. Helps Prevent Toxins

Though much focus is placed on diseases and pests affecting plants, microbes also prevent toxins from destroying crops. Fungi can release toxins when they break down waste products in soil, reducing the toxicity of their environment and allowing them to grow. Bacterial types can multiply rapidly and outcompete other microorganisms in the ground, producing a clean and healthy environment. Soil microbes are thus the first defense against soil toxins, while fungi can fight against fungi.

5. Mitigates Natural Disasters

Microbes are vulnerable to natural disasters as well. When natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and volcanoes occur, there is a risk that soil microbes are knocked out of their living environment. It can lead to degraded soil quality and reductions in crop yield as fewer nutrients are available for plants to grow. Microbes also serve an essential role in preventing the spread of disease agents from a natural disaster area by digesting waste products that would otherwise be poisonous to other plants.

6. Rehabilitation

Pests, such as pests and insects, are a major agricultural issue, and a common misconception is that it is okay to kill all pests or use any type of pesticide products. However, this is far from the truth. Introducing microbial-based methods, such as biopesticides, allows pest control and insect rehabilitation to be done safely. These new methods show great potential to replace chemical pesticides hazardous to people and animals near farmland. Some pests do benefit the agrictule industry and some pesticides can actually be detrimental to the agriculture industry so microbiology serves an important role in safely removing pests and using product ingredients that will not harm the crops.

Microbiology and the Agriculture Industry: Green algae in a watery glass jar
Blue-green algae cultured in specific media. Blue-green algae can be helpful in agriculture as they have the capability to fix atmospheric nitrogen to soil. This nitrogen is helpful to the crops. Blue-green algae is used as a biofertilizer.
Credit: Joydeep – Own work

Relationship Between Microbiology And Agriculture Industry

It can be challenging to think about how microbiology is related to the agriculture industry, but it is important for people to have a general understanding of how the relationship works. Microbes are the first line of defense and promote soil quality. Regarding agriculture, microbes make an impact by regulating temperature and breaking down fertilizer. The agriculture industry is affected by microbiology because it contributes to carbon sink capacities and improving soil structure. In a multitude of different ways, microbiology plays a large role in the success of the agriculture industry.

1. Microbes are the First Line Of Defense

In the initial stages of disease outbreaks and invasion, microbiology can play an essential role in faster detection and treatment. The existence of pathogens is first confirmed by microbiologists, who then work with plant specialists to identify their source. By identifying possible sources of pathogens before they cause significant damage, agricultural workers may have enough time to take preventative actions to reduce or stop the spread.

2. Microbes Promote Soil Quality

Soil microbes break down nutrients and toxins in the soil, which can lead to a healthy environment for plants to grow. Microbes are also responsible for breaking down organic matter in the ground to access nutrients and minerals, which then become available to plants. Since microbial activity increases as soil temperature increases, seeds are often stored in sealed containers or refrigerators to promote microbial activity. Additionally, as composting occurs within compost piles, microorganisms break down organic matter and release nutrients that plants can use.

3. Microbes Regulate Temperature

Microbiology is essential for creating a suitable environment for plant growth by regulating the temperature within the soil. Microbes produce heat when they break down plant materials or other organic matter. It generates heat and helps the development of other plants by warming up the soil. In cold environments, microbes like fungi and bacteria produce chemicals (known as antifreeze) that protect plants from frost damage. Microorganisms also protect younger plants since their roots can be at a warmer temperature than the soil surrounding them.

4. Microbes Break Down Fertilizers

A side effect of microbial activity in soil is that they break down fertilizers like phosphorus and nitrogen. Through this process, plants access the nutrients they need to grow. Having fertizlier broken down allows plants and crops to flourish which makes the agriculture industry even more successful. Without ferlitizer being properly broken down, the agriculture industry would not be what it is today because crops would not be able to draw what they need from the soil.

5. Microbes Contribute To Carbon Sink Capacities

Microbial life can also positively impact the environment by removing carbon dioxide from the soil and atmosphere for plants to use for photosynthesis. It removes CO2 from the environment and contributes to carbon sink capacities that help regulate climate change. Without proper carbon sinks, the soil would have too much carbon material, and plants, crops, and livestock would not benefit from the soil nutrients. With too much carbon in the soil, the soil components would change, and the soil could not be used for the existing purposes.

6. Microbes Improve Soil Structure

Different soil microbes serve other functions but also play an essential role in improving the soil structure by releasing different chemicals and proteins. Proteins called polysaccharides help bind soils into aggregates, improving drainage and supporting plant roots. It leads to a healthier environment for plants and allows workers to use less fertilizer to help achieve optimal growth. Soil structure is different depending on the geographical location which means that each local area’s microbiology will look different, but microbiology functions the same no matter where you are.

A common misconception about the relationship between microbiology and the agriculture industry is that only the soil is affected; however, so many different areas of society are impacted by this relationship. Microbiology and the agriculture industry affects livestock, plants, air quality, crops which in turn affect the health of both our bodies and the economy. Without the positive relationship between mircrobiology and the agrictulrue inudstry, the world today would look vastly different.

Microbiology significantly impacts food security because they help ensure the quality of crops by improving soil structure and water retention within the soil, as well as resisting disease that could otherwise destroy crops. While it is impossible to control microorganisms completely, researchers such as Microbial insights can improve the quality of products and enable plants to grow faster. Through cooperative research and development, we can continue to develop innovative methods for improving nutritional quality and crop growth within the food industry.