Soil under organic management supports beneficial bacteria reducing heavy metal accumulation

It is well known that synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used in conventional agriculture adversely impact beneficial biodiversity both above and below ground. The heavy metals in these synthetic formulas can accumulate in the soil and over time, can lead to health issues for human and animals. A recent study in the journal Biosciences Biotechnology Research Asia found that soil under organic management contained more nutrients, more beneficial bacteria, and significantly lower concentrations of toxic heavy metals than soil under either conventional management or buffer zones between conventional and organic fields. The results challenge the perception that organic fertilizers are not as effective as synthetic. Because organic farming doesn’t use chemicals that knock back beneficial bacteria, the soil bacteria communities thrive in organic soil and increase the cycling of nutrients to promote crop growth. These bacteria also help break down toxic heavy metals that can accumulate in the soil. According to this study, conventional production does not support beneficial bacteria, so even if lots of nutrients were dumped into the soil, the soil bacteria needed to cycle the nutrients to the crops is lacking. This absence of beneficial bacteria also means that heavy metals will not be broken down, and will continue to accumulate with pesticide applications. Overall, this study shows that organic farming supports key ecosystem function that can improve crops yields while detoxing the land from heavy metals found in synthetic pesticides.

Banner Photo Credit: Jan Kopriva