Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How the microbiome mines the soil for nutrients & how their demise will domino effect all other lifeforms

Scientists observe the step-by-step process by which a fungus attacks a mineral to extract vital nutrients
Image credit - Henry Teng
The researchers found the fungus Talaromyces flavus in a
Chinese mine, eating up minerals and extracting iron and magnesium

"All over the world, microbes destroy rocks to access precious nutrients like the iron locked inside. In a lab in Washington, D. C., researchers zoomed in on one particular microbe, the fungus Talaromyces flavus, to see just how this is done."
In a paper published this month in Geology, the researchers document their observations of the fungus as it obliterates its rocky environment using a mix of acid and mechanical force. Although it’s known that microbes like bacteria and fungi can wear away rocks, previous researchers estimated that fungi only contribute 1% to total bioweathering, said Henry Teng, a geochemist at George Washington University and coauthor of the paper. After watching T. flavus burrow into the mineral to extract essential nutrients, Teng and his team suggest that fungal weathering could actually be 40%–50% of all bioweathering. 
I really do not want to repost the entire article, but there were so many gems in this one which offer pause, pondering and meditation. For example, maybe I should have titled my blog,  Earth's Interface".  Definition: "Interface":
Noun 1. a point where two systems, subjects, organizations, etc. meet and interact. "the interface between accountancy and the law" 
2. COMPUTING a device or program enabling a user to communicate with a computer. "a graphical user interface" 
Verb 1. interact with (another system, person, etc.). "you will interface with counterparts from sister companies" 
2. COMPUTING connect with (another computer or piece of equipment) by an interface. "the hotel's computer system can interface automatically with the booking system"
“Compared to bacteria, fungi are overlooked, understudied, and very few studies [looked] at these interfaces between fungi and mineral,” said Steeve Bonneville , a biogeochemist at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium who was not involved in the paper, which he called “a very solid study.” The new research provides evidence that “fungi can be a major player in mineral alteration and more generally in biogeochemical cycles,” Bonneville said. 
EOS: Using Acid and Physical Force, Fungi Burrow Through Rock
Also, please see my other post which deals with the same identical subject matter: 
Mycorrhizal Fungi run the Largest Mining Operation in the World 
Credit: University of Adelaide

Panning for platinum grains in Brazil: Frank Reith, University
of Adelaide, and Barbara Etschmann, Monash University.
Another fascinating question was recently explored, "Why do we see flakes of palladium, platinum and other heavy elements on the surface of the Earth?" It’s been presumed that geological processes dredge them up from the interiior. Yup, sure enough, that's what I always thought. Volcanoes, Tectonic uplift etc brought to the surface all those traces elements. But in an Australian study, the scientists found that bacteria play a major role in this. The article in PhysOrg quotes Frank Reith from the University of Adelaide:
“Traditionally it was thought that these platinum group metals only formed under high pressure and temperature systems deep underground, and that when they were brought to the surface through weathering and uplift, they just sat there and nothing further happened to them,” says Dr Reith.
“We’ve shown that that is far from the case. We’ve linked specialised bacterial communities, found in biofilms on the grains of platinum group minerals at three separate locations around the world, with the dispersion and re-concentration of these elements in surface environments.
So to make a long story short, these “nuggets of platinum and related metals can be reformed at the surface through bacterial processes.”
“We’ve shown the biofilms occur across a range of platinum-group-metal grains and in different locations,” says Dr Reith. “And we’ve shown, that at the Brazil site at least, the entire process of formation of platinum and palladium was mediated by microbes.”
(Source - PhysOrg) 
There is so much tonage of understanding that scientists still do not know, but by nature are often reluctant to admit. This is why bioethics within industrial science are so important and it behooves those scientists to learn humility. How often lately are we reading expressions in science studies and journals like, "We were shocked to find," totally unexpected," "now we know," etc etc etc. So much for other terms like, "Settled Science" or "Scientific Consensus" which is what Biotechs and Agro-Chemical companies and their researchers hide behind to justifiy their technology. As Henry Teng said:
“Most of the nutrients in rock and soil are in geological form. Roots cannot directly use that. Plants depend on the fungi to colonize their roots.”
Image: Max Planck Institute

Fluorescent microscopy image of a root of Arabidopsis thaliana (violet)
 surrounded by a fungal mesh of Colletotrichum tofieldiae (green).
The mesh also grows within the root cells.
"Plants take on fungal tenants on demand"
The above title is from an article on March 17th 2016 from the Max Planck Institute which reveals how plants send signals to potential fungal partners when vital nutrients like phosphorus are scarce and the plant is incapable of acquiring these abundant, but unavailable nutrients on their own. This also sheds light on why heavy application of synthetic fertilizers in agriculture will trigger an epigentic off switch and shut down a crop plant's chemical signaling system which alerts potential fungal partners to please colonize this host. In fact, the biotechs have shut the system down altogether in many of their cultivators either by accident or deliberately. This creates a dependency in GMO Seeds on the Agro-Chemical industries synthetic wares. For me personal, a major clue on this came from watching the interviews of India and Mexican peasant farmers who failed with GMO seeds said their earlier traditional hierloom seed varieties didn't require all the fertilizer applications with the new biotech engineered seeds. Monsanto as much as admitted this when they said the reasons Indian farmers failed was because they didn't use the chemicals the seeds were designed to work with for higher yield. See folks, they've known about this all along and sheds light on why the industrial Ag business model spends millions on disinformation public relations campaigns. Below is the forward abstarct and link to the whole article. 
For a long time, it was thought that the sole role of the immune system was to distinguish between friend and foe and to fend off pathogens. In fact, it is more like a microbial management system that is also involved in accommodating beneficial microorganisms in the plant when required. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne in collaboration with an international consortium of other laboratories discovered this relationship between the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress, and the fungus Colletotrichum tofieldiae. The plant tolerates the fungus when it needs help in obtaining soluble phosphate from the soil and rejects the microbe if it can accomplish this task on its own.
There was an interesting piece in Science Daily which admitted that there was an urgent need to collect wild ancestor plants of today's crop plants because the vast volumes of genetic information for fighting diseases, climate change etc could be lost if they are not found and locked away in that precious seed vault. These genes will contain the vital information for plant/fungal symbiosis which has been complete lost or shut down by genetic engineering. Fungi are vital for plant drought resistance for which messing arond with genomes for a Drought Guard patent is worthless. But even this may not be enough.
Over 70% of essential crop wild relative species in urgent need of collection
Why people should be very afraid of what the actual consequences of the Industrial Agricultural practices are doing to the Earth
Scary news comes from researchers showing that not only plants, but also microbes may not be able to adapt to climate change as once imagined.

(Kevin Griffin/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
"Cotton grass flowers on the tundra of northern Alaska. These and other cold-region plants do not respond as steadily to increasing heat as previously thought, according to a new study. 
Scientists Say Many Plants Don’t Respond to Warming as Thought

Courtesy of Alice Dohnalkova/PNNL
Microbes in soil — organisms that exert enormous influence over our planet's carbon cycle — may not be as adaptable to climate change as most scientists have presumed, according to a paper published March 2 in PLOS One.  
The scientists found less adaptability than they expected, even after 17 years. While the microbial make-up of the samples did not change much at all, the microbes in both sets of transplanted soils retained many of the traits they had in their "native" climate, including to a large degree their original rate of respiration.
Microbes may not be so adaptable to climate change

UCI graduate student Caitlin Looby is exploring the effects of
global warming on the soil fungi communities of a mountain
cloud forest in Monteverde, Costa Rica. UCI 
Soil fungi and plants have developed a mutually beneficial arrangement. Some fungi help plants by growing into their root cells and increasing the root surface area available to absorb water and nutrients. In turn, plants give the fungi the sugars they crave. Other fungi facilitate the breakdown of plant material, which releases carbon dioxide.  
“These mountains provide a unique opportunity to predict how soil fungi will change in response to climate,” Looby said. “The properties of these mountain soils are sensitive to the rising cloud layer. Our work demonstrates that fungal community composition shifts with elevation and with climatic factors that co-vary with belowground responses to elevation, such as temperature and moisture.”
UC Irvine: Even plant-supporting soil fungi affected by global warming, UCI study finds

Image Mine
I can attest to the fact that both plants and soil organisms work best when the soil temps are much cooler. This photo at right here of my old place in the San Jacinto Mountains is a prime example. In the beginning when I planted trees in the open ground, temps were not uncommon at 90+ Fahrenheit [32 Celsius]. Although I inoculated them with fungal spores, the pine seedlings stayed stuck in neutral until I placed a thick layer of bark and pine straw mulch around the tree at a four foot diameter. You could almost instantly see a difference in the needles which change position to a more upright one as opposed to drooping downwards. And this dispite the fact that the ground was damp and wet from watering. Root systems operate at maximum efficiency when they are cool. Hence the reasons in nature why seedlings grow better with nurse plants or mother trees. Aside from the obvious underground interfacing within the mycorrhizal grid. While above ground foliage grow may be slowed or even stopped altogether when temps are cold or frigid, I've always noticed root growth often continues. This was obvious when I did wild outplanted pine nut experiments where even the warmer climate pine seedling emergence would even push up through the snow in Spring. Once germinated and above ground, the seedling would stay in park until further warmer weather arrived. But you can bet there was still underground infrastructure activity going on. Climate Change will definitely impact all ecosystems irrespective of where they are located around the globe. The Industrial Ag business model is not the answer and in fact it's a major part of the problem despite the propaganda to the contrary (See - Climate Change & Industrial Agriculture's "Get-Out-of-Jail-Free" card) . A biomimetic approach is the only answer, but only if all humans around the globe are on the same page with how Nature actually works. Given the insaneness around the globe in all the News reports, this is probably the last thing on most people's minds. Especially today's youth who are taking over running the planet and with little or no understanding of how old growth plant ecosystems actually work. This includes young College Science students. I mean, what's left of the natural world for them to actually study ??? How about the "World According to Monsanto" ???
I usually post more references, but I think you've got more than enough above!


  1. Great article. It's interesting to see the interaction between plants, fungi, minerals, and humans.

    1. Thanks John, but these components and mechanisms that have been created and engineered into our natural world get the real credit

  2. Thank You for this post!If the abstract concept of value could be changed from one of a false sense of dominance and control over Nature to a partnership with and support of natural systems... is it possible that organisms like Monsanto could become useful and productive citizens by changing their way of doing business. We need all hands on deck to save this ship. If that is even possible at this point.

    1. The major problem with giant behemoth Industrial Ag corporations is that they need a consumable product to keep that obscene wealth rolling in. Mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria do not exactly offer that consumer/sales regularity they are looking for. However, as a public relations smokescreen to clean up their dirty image, they are now claiming to be turning over a new Eco-Leaf in their playbook.

      Monsanto-Bayer & the Jolly Green Giant makeover


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