Microbial Communities Provide Measure of Soil Health

Scientists in Canada are evaluating soil health by measuring enzymes involved in carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulfur nutrient cycles in the soil, counting fungi and bacteria varieties, and determining the ratio between the two. They are using these measurements to study the long-term soil health effects of different crop-growth systems, explains an American Society of Agronomy press release. The study found that fields in perennial grasses had the healthiest soils, with lots of biological activity and diverse microbes and fungi. Fields growing both a perennial grass and a legume called birdsfoot trefoil were especially healthy. In contrast, fields constantly growing soybeans came in last place, while corn fields were between the two.