Probiotics For Plants? Yes, Indeed!
Beneath the surface of the soil, where earthworms and other creatures live and offer their benefits to the growers, something essential yet invisible is happening: dozens or even hundreds of species of bacteria are colonizing the roots of plants, breaking down components in the soil, causing disease or peacefully consuming nitrogen or hydrogen. All of these are very important to growers in one way or another, but one kind of bacteria in particular is always highly regarded. This is the group of mutualist bacteria, that inhabit the surfaces of plant’s roots and bring them positive effects at the same time that they themselves benefit from the excesses of what the plants produce for themselves.
In more recent times (and taking advantage of everyoneknowing what a probiotic is, these days), experts and organic growers have begun referring to these strains of little bacteria as plant probiotics, or probiotics for plants. You may see them around marketed or offered as such, and the term is (unlike so much publicity) actually not an exaggeration at all. Scientific studies have found incredible benefits from these plant probiotics, including an increase in the growth rates of plants that have colonies of these bacteria in their roots, better resistance to diseases, a superior capability to draw nutrients from the soil, and many other interesting perks, including, possibly, the capacity to produce more nutritious fruits and vegetables. This is not only important for home gardeners and other small agricultural producers, but at a large scale as well: in a world where the population is increasing every day, finding new ways to organically increase the yield and quality of crops is one step in the right direction. Plant probiotics definitely are so.
Not so long ago, plant probiotics seemed like a technology of the future. In the website of the Department of Agriculture of the United States, for example, one of the older entries for ‘soil bacteria’ reads: “These plant growth-enhancing bacteria occur naturally in soils, but not always in high enough numbers to have a dramatic effect. In the future, farmers may be able to inoculate seeds with anti-fungal bacteria, such as P. fluorescens, to ensure that the bacteria reduce pathogens around the seed and root of the crop.”But the future has arrived already, and we can actually buy plant probiotics in both rooting powder and liquid presentations today, to use at the garden at our convenience. This is especially useful in new agricultural or garden soils, where the naturally-present amount of these bacteria might not be enough to have a clear impact on all the new plant growth that is about to take place there. More often than not, sprinkling plant probiotics around your garden will greatly impact your plants for the better.
But, to be exact here, how do these plant probiotics boost plant growth? That’s a question with an answer in three parts:
1) Plant probiotics increase the availability of nutrients for plants. They do this in two main ways, in turn: by making nutrient particles soluble in water, so that plant’s roots can take them in (nutrients like potassium and phosphorus are hard for plants to ‘digest’, so your garden might have, say, a potassium deficiency even though there’s plenty of raw potassium in the soil), and by actually synthesizing nutrients from sources unavailable to plants, like those bacteria that help legumes fix nitrogen into the soil.
2) Plant probiotics outcompete other bacteria, and sometimes produce antibiotics to fend them off. They do this for purely selfish reasons, of course, because the growth of competing bacteria means less food for them and, in the case of pathogens, perhaps the death of the plant that is their home. Still, it’s an incredibly useful boost for the gardener.
3) Plant probiotics actually generate resistance in plants, serving as a sort of ‘plant vaccine’. This means that when plants encounter pathogens (or rather, the other way around), these plants will be ready to activate an immune response that will increase their chances of quickly getting over any disease.
So there you have it: plant probiotics are great. Why not try increasing their numbers in your soil, with the aid of some of the products in our selection?