by Aaron Deacon
To a lot of us, soil is simply earth that plants grow in. But how does it all happen? We all know plants need nutrients, and soil (generally) contains those nutrients, so it should be simple; the roots grow into the soil, take in nutrients & water, and you've got a plant! Now, what if I told you that majority of nutrients in the soil couldn't actually be absorbed by plant roots, how would the plants grow? The answer lies in the microscopic world of soil. Billions of bacteria and fungi cultures live in soils of all types, helping plants deal with stress (environmental, pests, etc.), and breaking down nutrients into an absorbable forms for the plant to eat and grow. It is debated whether or not plants would actually grow at all if they did not share a relationship with bacteria & fungi; which also raises the idea of fungi being on earth before plants. Now, when roots begin to form, they release sugars as a bi-product of photosynthesis.
Bacteria & fungi love this sugar and strike a deal with the roots. If the roots keep releasing sugar, the bacteria will stay close to them and create a defensive system to fight off disease and other microbial life. Some bacteria can even pull nitrogen from the air which helps your plants stay green and growing. As the bacteria dies, it contains absorbable nutrients that the roots can break down easily, creating a cycling nutrient system at your roots! The fungi however will begin close to the roots, and will then begin to burrow through the soil (sometimes up to kilometers away!) searching for nutrients the plant is asking for (plants can communicate with other plants and microbial life through a chemical language), breaking them down, and sending it directly back to the plant through its tube structure. This ensures the plant has access to a variety of nutrients and minerals. Although there are many other moving parts in this system, for the purposes of this article, it gives a great understanding into the fundamental relationships of soil, and your plant
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