by Leiden University
"What I find most alluring about soil life is that you can steer it," researcher Martijn Bezemer of the Institute Biology Leiden (IBL) reveals. "You can ask: What do you want? And then I can transform the soil into something you need. At least, that is what we thought."
For years, Bezemer studied the interaction between plants and the soil microbiome: The bacteria and fungi living in the soil. "This microbiome and the plants affect each other, by the chemicals they release, for instance. We call that plant-soil feedback," the researcher explains.
It works as follows: when plant A is put in the soil, its surrounding soil changes. "In this way, you create a soil typical for plant A, thus soil A, with a matching microbiome," Bezemer says. But when plant A is replaced by plant B, the microbiome in the soil will slowly change into that belonging to plant B. "You can keep changing the soil, even with plant C, D or E. In this way, you could create desired microbiomes so that e.g. certain crops that you then plant in the soil can grow even better."