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Organic Farmers’ Microbiome Beliefs Influence Practices

Organic farmers’ beliefs about the microbiome influence their soil management practices, according to a new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Cornell University. Researchers surveyed 85 organic vegetable farmers in New York, gauging their microbiome beliefs, farming practices, and motivations, as well as testing soil samples. “Overall, 96% of the farmers believed that the microbiome on their farm is influencing plant defenses and pest suppression. But there was much more variety in their beliefs about what factors promote a healthy microbiome,” said lead author Elias Bloom. Co-author Shadi Atallah added, “Understanding why different farmers might select different practices based on what they believe about the microbiome is a first step to understanding how to incentivize certain kinds of organic practices. Eventually, there could be market incentives such as a microbiome-friendly ecolabel on food.”