Live Soil Structure

How can we use the naturally existing microorganisms in soils to steer the aggregate stability and soil porosity?

For a soil to be functioning, it must have a good structure. A good structure is formed by particles bounded together which are called “aggregates.” The main builders of soil aggregates are microbes. Soil aggregates store water and nutrient for plants and create habitat for soil microorganisms needed for plant development.

Soil aggregates are the fundamental structural units in soils, and physical stability is considered a keystone parameter of soil quality. In natural ecosystems a favourable soil structure can contribute to the restoration of disturbed lands, erosion prevention and soil carbon storage and microbial activity and functionality. In agriculture system, stable soil aggregates can be an indicator in soil conservation and sustainable agriculture. An apparent positive effect of microbiota in soil aggregates has been observed in earlier studies, and bacteria contribute strongly to macro and microaggregates.  However, it remains unclear how beneficial bacteria build the soil aggregate, the aggregate stability and soil porosity.

To find better solutions in this challenge scientists from diverse disciplines including environmental science, geoscience, and microbial ecology combine their expertise on biological, imaging, and computational sciences to explore aggregate behaviour in soils.

Single bacterial strains that promote plant growth as well as consortium of bacterial strains inoculated in sterile synthetic soil for 8 weeks at 30 ℃ at 60% water hold capacity (WHC) to determine the effect of these bacteria on soil structure, soil chemical composition, soil aggregation formation and stability and soil porosity. Expertise in the environmental science and microbial ecology are used to treat soil samples are skills and geosciences are used to create 3D images and build computational models which can reveal how flow and transport happens within aggregates.