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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Soil Microbial Diversity: Present and Future Considerations

Authors
item Kennedy, Ann
item Gewin, Virginia

Submitted to: Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 1997
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Microbes are the most diverse group of soil organisms, yet very little is known about them. Until recently, research has focused on those organisms that are culturable; however, a wealth of information is now being collected from both culturable and, as yet, unculturable organisms. Functions of the soil microbial population impact many soil processes, and therefore productivity. Without microbes and their functions, no other life forms could exist. A greater understanding of soil microbial ecology can only benefit land management decisions. The recent innovations in molecular techniques used to evaluate soil microbial constituents have merited an overview of the levels of information obtained from each of these methods. By outlining the capabilities and disadvantages of the various analytical methods, the interpretation of the data obtained may be put into a larger perspective. In addition, the variety of methods may be used in concert with one another to paint a holistic view of soil microbial ecology. This concise view of current techniques will benefit other scientist's evaluation of methodologies to find those that can be used to answer the relevant needs of research, which in turn can increase our knowledge of the effect of perturbations on the soil and soil life.

Technical Abstract: Microbes are the most diverse group of soil organisms, yet very little is known about them. Until recently, research has focused on those organisms that are culturable; however, a wealth of information is now being collected from both culturable and, as yet, unculturable organisms. Functions of the soil microbial population impact many soil processes, and therefore productivity. Without microbes and their functions, no other life forms could exist. A greater understanding of soil microbial ecology can only benefit land management decisions. These organisms are the basis for transformations that enable life to continue, and so knowledge of their interactions, roles, and functions are vital to our understanding of soils and sustainability. Our objectives were to assess the areas of current soil microbiological research that will most influence future research. New research methods involving molecular techniques will extend our understanding of taxonomic and functional diversity in soil systems. The development of molecular techniques for microbial identification, coupled with traditional methods, and promising areas for continued research. The application of this type of information is limitless, as are the avenues of exploration. Agricultural science, and its impact on agricultural and environmental policy, will benefit from this expanding knowledge base.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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