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Nutrient supply through soils

Soil microbes; a potential answer to the damage from over-fertilising. It is well known that soil microbes interact with plants to supply nutrients, in particular nitrogen, typically supplied through synthetic inputs such as fertiliser.

In natural ecosystems, most nutrients including nitrogen (N) are bound in organic molecules which have limited availability to plants. To access these nutrients, plants are dependent on the action of soil microbes such as bacteria and fungi, which breakdown organic matter and mineralise nutrients.

Farming practices such as fertilisation, tillage, crop rotation and cover crops influence and alter soil microbial communities which in turn influence the agroecosystem. Soil microbial communities are often sensitive to nutrient inputs. For instance, nitrogen fertilisation typically reduces microbial biomass and respiration rates, with specific functional groups of microbes, including ammonia oxidisers and mycorrhizal fungi, often being very sensitive to the addition of nitrogen through fertilisers.

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