Organic farming promotes beneficial soil fungi for multiple crops and increases plant growth, health and yield

Photo Credit: Atik Sulianami

Organic farming helps bolster important beneficial soil fungi, leading to healthier plants. These fungi improve nutrient uptake and soil health, and can help ward off diseases. While synthetic chemicals used in conventional farming reduce the amount and diversity of these microbes, a new study published in Nature: Scientific Reports shows that organic farming increases beneficial endophytic fungal communities in multiple crops. In turn, those fungi increase crop growth, health and overall yield. This study compared endophytic fungal communities associated with tomatoes, corn, peppers and watermelons grown under organic versus conventional management. Researchers found that organic farms overall had significantly higher abundance and diversity of endophytic fungal species. In a separate experiment conducted on tomatoes, they found that the addition of these fungi improved plant shoot growth, biomass and tomato yield. The researchers suggest that while this study provides good evidence that organic farming promotes beneficial microbes, future studies should look at specific organic farming practices such as composting and cover-cropping to identify the best practices for improving endophytic microbes in the soil.