I no longer work on soil microbial communities, and I occasionally collaborate on these projects in special circumstances. I used to collaborate with plant and soil scientists to better understand how agricultural practices and environmental conditions affect soil microbial communities in the context of food production.
In agricultural systems, many factors can affect the composition of the microbial community found in soil, including farming system and management practices, the type and diversity of crops or weeds, plant health or life stage, and soil conditions such as temperature, moisture, nutrient content, pH, and more. In addition to directly affecting the microbial community, all of these affect plants and if/how they interact with soil microorganisms. Plants have a complex relationship with bacteria and fungi in the soil, and will provide sugars in exchange for microbial products. When conditions are harsh enough to threaten plant survival, like during droughts, plants may cut off support to soil microorganisms, which can cause the community to crash. Similarly, microbial communities may be unsupportive or pathogenic towards plants, and can hamper seed germination, as well as growth or health of plants.
- Ishaq, S.L. 2017. Plant-Bacteria Interactions in Agriculture and the Use of Farming Systems to Improve Diversity and Productivity. In: Plant probiotic bacteria: solutions to feed the World, AIMS Microbiology 3(2): 335-353. No impact factor. Article.