Microbiology testing for farming, agriculture and mining rehabilitation
Microbial Management Systems undertakes microbiology testing of soil, organic matter and water samples in areas such as farming, agriculture and mining rehabilitation. These tests provide objective information to support decisions concerning ecosystem and soil health.
Many of the functions of the microbial biomass are unaffected by its exact species composition which limits the value of using only taxonomic and molecular approaches to microbial monitoring. We monitor microbes using a combination of isolation and colony counting, together with metabolic fingerprinting of the bacterial and fungal communities through their utilization of different carbon sources.
Metrics derived from these measurements show the status of both the bacterial and fungal communities of soils and organic matter and the effects of nutrient conditions, disturbance, organic matter and water status on them.
Testing protocols are available to suit both the information required and the numbers of samples to be tested. For example, specific information may be required on differences between the bacterial and fungal communities of a “good” and a “bad” soil, or more general information may be required such as tracking the recovery of microbial communities after soil disturbance.
Farming and agricultural soils
In organic farming systems plant production mostly depends on the decomposition of soil organic matter by the microbial biomass to provide significant quantities of essential nutrients for plant growth. An optimally functioning microbiota is therefore important to plant and soil health.
In both conventional and organic farming systems organic matter treatments may be applied to improve a soil's biology. Bold claims have been made for the effects of some commercial treatments on soil microbiology, but we can determine if they are true and if a more cost-effective alternative is available.
If soil bioremediation is required, appropriate treatments can be selected to stimulate the existing microbiota or to restore essential missing components.
A new metric has been developed that can distinguish different stages of and types of rehabilitation. It is a reliable and cost-effective measure to determine the biological health and quality of mine soils as they are rehabilitated.
The metric can be used to track the trajectory of microbial communities in rehabilitating mine soils over periods of time, as not all rehabilitating sites follow the same recovery trajectory.
As new government mine rehabilitation objectives and completion criteria may now include soil microbiology benchmarks, we can establish cost-effective monitoring programs to meet these completion criteria.