MadSci Network: Microbiology

Re: What microscopic life can be found in five square cm of soil?

Date: Wed Oct 4 18:52:45 2000
Posted By: Chris Yost, PhD Microbiology
Area of science: Microbiology
ID: 970501316.Mi


You have chosen a great subject as the soil is rich in microbial diversity and you will learn of many interesting microbes during your studies. Many research scientists are interested in the diversity of microbes found in the soil. Why? Because the diversity is so great and there are many microbes that are useful for our own purposes. For instance soil is home to many actinomycetes- bacteria that are very important for production of antibiotics. Also soil microbes play important roles in agriculture. You can learn more about soil microbes by visiting dirt land at the Microbe Zoo.

Traditionally, scientists identified microbes in the soil by culturing them however now scientists have techniques which allow them to determine which microbes are in the soil without having to culture the microbes. In fact by using this method scientists have learned that we are only able to grow a small number of soil microbes in the laboratory and in fact most of the microbes that live in the soil are unculturable. Unculturable means scientists have not determined how to grow these microbes in the lab. However you can still observe a great deal of diversity by culturing bacteria from your own soil. Try using soil that contains a lot of plant material- like a garden as the plants give nutrients to the bacteria and therefore you will find more bacteria in the soil surrounding plant roots. If you have a University or College near by you could talk to the microbiology department and they may be able to help you with getting appropriate materials.

Common organisms you may find in the soil could be Bacillus, Streptomyces, Rhizobium, Pseudomonas

I hope this serves as a good start to your project. If you need further assistance please email me.


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