A researcher with UF/IFAS is studying soil microbes and the ‘black box’ of soil with an eye towards improving crop growth.

The structure of soil is more complicated than ever thought before, with soil microbes presenting a mystery that one scientist is attempting to unravel. UF scientist Sarah Strauss is looking to explore the role soil microbes play, especially when it comes to crop growth, according to a UF/IFAS blog. See the details of Strauss’s research below.

Soil Microbes and the ‘Black Box’ of Soil

Strauss maintained in the blog that the role of microbes in soil is not completely understood. “There are microbial activities going on that we don’t exactly understand. It’s known as the ‘black box’ in soil.”  Strauss, who is an assistant professor of soil and water sciences at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida, is studying how microbes work with fertilizers to improve plant growth and crop production.

There are a number of ways that microbes can potentially benefit crops, according to Strauss. “One thing that we’re now realizing is that microbes have the potential to play a really large role in crop production – whether it’s helping combat soil-borne diseases that are a really big problem in agriculture or whether it’s actually increasing plant growth,” she said in the blog. Other points her research is touching on is soil pathogens like bacteria and fungi, cover crops like legumes, and biocrusts; all with a focus on soil health and crop production.

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