Request for information about Beneficial Microbes

Asked April 9, 2020, 10:49 AM EDT

HGIC, During our MG committee meeting, the following questions came up: “Beneficial Microbes”. What information is available? How to best consider these when growing natives? Do ‘commercial soil microbe’ products really have value? Do invasives negatively affect soil quality (ex. Japanese Barberry)? Can you kindly help us to learn more about this subject? We're interested in both what to share with our clients as well as what we, as MG's, can learn about it in depth. Three of our MG's are also interested in articles, talks and reference materials if links can be provided. Thank you for all that you do. Good health. r/ John

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

John, these are all great questions. There is a lot of interesting research on beneficial microbes in relation to soil/plant interactions, food safety, the human gut, seed treatments, biological control of pests, etc. The University of Maryland does not have one campus expert who can address your wide-ranging questions. We suggest you explore research articles available via Google Scholar.

In regard to your questions in general:

  • yes, research suggests that invasive plant species alter soil microbial communities and can affect soil pH, nitrogen mineralization, and other soil characteristics.
  • there is not sufficient research for UME to recommend garden or field applications of specific commercial biological products.
  • the number, diversity, and health of soil microbes can be increased by reducing tillage and keeping soils covered at all times, and growing a wide diversity of plants for as much of the year as possible.