Bacteria and fungi, however, produce enzymes that break-down these structures, thus releasing the nutrients they contain. The bacteria and fungi readily absorb these nutrients, which are later made available to plant roots when bacterial and fungal predators consume their prey and subsequently excrete their waste. It is this waste material that plants absorb – a nutrient dense liquid food source that can be absorbed directly into the plant root.
The vast majority of disease causing microorganisms are anaerobes, meaning they thrive in low oxygen conditions and that they shut-down in oxygen rich environments. The opposite is true for beneficial microorganisms. A well structured soil allows air to flow in, creating an oxygen rich environment (>6ppm) which selects for beneficial microorganisms and suppresses disease causing organisms.
With the Soil Food Web in place, the plant is nutrient rich and therefore better able to protect itself, whilst diseases are inhibited by the conditions in the soil.
The world’s insect populations are crashing. A recent study found that they have been decreasing around the world by approx. 2.5% every year for the last 30 years. The main causes are thought to be chemical agriculture and climate change. Pesticides kill indiscriminately and are thought to be linked to the recent reduction in bee populations. Birds and small animals that feed on insects are also under threat. A recent study showed that bird populations in France have declined by 30% in the last 15 years. By negating the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, such as herbicides, the Soil Food Web can be employed to mitigate the threat of ecological collapse.