Plants have co-evolved with microorganisms for more than 400 million years to form very complicated systems that perform critical biological and ecological functions including nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, soil fertility maintenance, and ecosystem resilience. In agriculture, soil-microbe-plant interactions are extremely strong, with highly selected crop species being used in different cropping systems for food and fibre gains that also significantly enhance the “host effects” on soil micro-organisms.
Plants have also developed multiple chemical signalling pathways during their co-evolution to invest in and manage microbe abundant functional soil. The composition of this specific microbial community, also called the ‘root microbiome,’ is constrained by the properties of the soil environment and is heavily shaped by the host plants.
Soil health is defined as the capacity of soil to function within ecosystem boundaries, to sustain crop and animal productivities and maintain or enhance environmental sustainability. In agro-ecosystems, the soil health can change due to various activities such as singular species preferred cropping practices and intensive supplemental land management practices, which further impact soil functions.
Previously, assessments of soil health in agriculture mostly related to soil eco-functions that were integrated with non-biological properties such as soil nutrients and soil structures, however in recent years the biological properties such as soil microorganisms have now been recognised as an essential composition and component of soil, and of course, plant health.
Unfortunately, soil has been and continues being rapidly degraded at a globally significant scale due to a range of activities in intensive agriculture, with associated adverse effects on human and ecosystem health. The concern with this is that soil is potentially a non-renewable resource at a human temporal scale (i.e., soil loss and degradation are not recoverable within a human lifespan), if left to regenerate by natural means. The continued use of chemical supplementation and influencers will continue to kill the microbiome in the soil and ultimately leave the soil lifeless, dead, incapable of production and worthless.
Harnessing and supplementing beneficial microbes presents a promising strategy to optimize plant growth and agricultural sustainability. Supplementing the soil with essential biological gases and regenerating the soil with organic matter and less tillage, will in turn encourage life back into the soil structure environment. Water management methods determine appropriateness of application of molecular hydrogen and oxygen with irrigation, flood, artesian supply enrichment and bore water all being possible enrichment points.