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Ch. 3 Bacteria

Here we are at last. Into the nitty and the gritty...

Well as anyone that has spent any time around me knows, I think bacteria are the mast food source for soil, but Jeff's pronouncement that they are the frontline of defense for pathogens surprised me a bit until I remembered something Dr. Ingham said. She once told me biodiversity is our best defense, and as bacteria are the most diverse kingdom in soil, it makes sense...

What is your take on this? What surprises did you find?

HG
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One thing that really intrigued me is not only the bacteria but everything else in the soil food web living in perfect unison. Everything has it's place. When bacteria start to become scarce the others, protozoa for example start eating them selves than the bacterial world has a comeback due the protozoa having a decline in numbers. It's a big fat round circle of life. Quite amazing and all this is going on without our knowledge beneath out feet.

The other day when burying a rabbit fence i saw all kinds of life, ton's of worms, arthropods and whatnot. I just had to stop and take it all in.

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Circle Of Life, aye, Gixx. 8)

Bacteria provide the bottom rung of the ladder in our food web and a high nitrogen one at that. Bacteria are our nitrogen producers, but what is the nitrogen source in fungal soils? Guess we are going to have to wait to find out how that works... ponder carefully...

HG
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This chapter really got me thinking about all the anti-bacterial soaps we use and how we're constantly disinfecting everything, most likely to our detriment. It's not really soil related but it fits.

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This chapter made me a little nostalgic. When I was 17, I wrote a technical paper for a college course, on ion transport across semi-permeable membranes. Given how many decades ago I was 17, that was cutting edge science at the time. It's kind of sad to think I was smarter then than now! :?

All manner of wonderful magic tricks in this chapter. Bacteria do their digesting outside themselves and then just slurp up the soup they've created. But in this process they are exuding and then floating in enzymes that break down organic molecules, but their own organic molecules are not affected by them. ... Bacteria that suck nitrogen right out of the air and turn it into a form usable by plants....bacteria that can secrete a protective coating so that antibiotics can't get them and bacteria that can cure fungal diseases...


There ought to be some cool uses for the protective coating trick. I know humans don't necessarily think that antibiotic resistance is a good thing. But when might we want it? We use recombinant DNA techniques to make bacteria that produce things like human insulin. Right now they just gather the insulin and then people have to inject it into themselves. What if we could give those bacteria the protective coating and then just put them in people's pancreas. Might it be just like a working pancreas again? Just speculating, because it seems like such a neat trick, there ought to be a helpful use for it.

But I'm with gixx, all the circles of life, nitrogen moving from air to soil to plants and back to air and soil again in complex interlocking loops. It is totally awe-inspiring to be reminded about how much is going on in the teaspoon of soil, that we never pay attention to.

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That antibiotic resistance is allowing some bacteria to clean up low level residual antibiotics that we are throwing about willy nilly in everything from handwipes to pens. It is a good deal of what protects them from the chemicals we add to the mix from a myriad of reasons and often no good reason at all. So while it proves occasionally inconvenient (and rarely pops up a monster), I think we should be grateful all in all to our littlest cohabitants... and see dec, there IS a tie in for your antibacterial soap...

HG
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This chapter made me a little nostalgic. When I was 17, I wrote a technical paper for a college course, on ion transport across semi-permeable membranes. Given how many decades ago I was 17, that was cutting edge science at the time. It's kind of sad to think I was smarter then than now
phospholipids baby!
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INdeed...
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I hear chapter 4 is cool.
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Well it IS one of the new ones and on a little known facet of soil biology that is just starting to be understood...

It is extremely heartening to see soil research finally getting back to good after nearly a seventy year hiatus because everybody studied chemicals instead of biology. :roll:

We are just figuring out what a complete waste of time THAT was from an ecological POV, and certainly counterproductive from an agricultural POV. Yet it is not until you begin to understand the topic Jeff is unfolding before us, that you start to see how truly stupid and hubric we humans are with our "learning". Guess we as a race have a lot of "unlearning" to do...

HG
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Toil wrote:I hear chapter 4 is cool.
Yes quite an eye opener. All the sudden I love soil.

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The Helpful Gardener wrote:Well it IS one of the new ones and on a little known facet of soil biology that is just starting to be understood...

It is extremely heartening to see soil research finally getting back to good after nearly a seventy year hiatus because everybody studied chemicals instead of biology. :roll:

We are just figuring out what a complete waste of time THAT was from an ecological POV, and certainly counterproductive from an agricultural POV. Yet it is not until you begin to understand the topic Jeff is unfolding before us, that you start to see how truly stupid and hubric we humans are with our "learning". Guess we as a race have a lot of "unlearning" to do...

HG
yeah, but there will be unlearning after that. we should not beat ourselves up too much.
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skin bacteria

Not relevant to the book, but on the topic of bacteria, I just heard an article on NPR yesterday about skin bacteria. It seems that the population of different bacteria on a person's skin is long-term stable over time and as unique as your fingerprint. You leave samples of these skin bacteria on everything you touch. By sampling bacteria left on (e.g.) your computer keyboard, up to two weeks after you last touched it, they can positively identify that it was you using it (assuming they have a sample of your skin bacteria for comparison).

I thought that was pretty cool in a mildly creepy kind of way!
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That IS cool! Let's extrapolate from that -- I FIRMLY believe we each have a unique distribution and strains of bacterial/viral populations in our homes. I'm sure they're not constant and rapidly shift and change within the scope of their limited life cycles.

Now turn it around and think about how the marketing propaganda has most of the public using anti-microbial soaps and sanitizer lotions, and sprays and, and, and, ... on their skin and around their homes as well as their immediate surrounding area in the workplace, school, etc. to kill 99.1% ~ 99.5% of "germs". Doesn't this mean they're constantly wiping out their "home team?" Doesn't it also mean they're actively culturing resistant strains?

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Yes and yes methinks, and doesn't that also mean you are creating a vacuum, and we all know who shows up first there... Purel breeds strong germs and weak immunities...

I always remember James Herriot's passage in one of the All Creatures Great And Small series where he is at the knackers yard (where the dead animals are rendered) and seeing the baby playing in a pile of blood meal pop a finger in it's mouth, and despite his horror, he points out that the knackers kids were about the healthiest ones in town, never sick a day...

And where do you find the strongest bacteria on the planet, like MRSA, capable of withstanding multiple antibiotics?

In hospitals. Only in hospitals.

:?:

And did you know they have found what is breaking down low level antibiotics in soil and water?

Regular soil bacteria...

Perhaps our stance on bacteria needs rethinking some?

HG
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I enjoyed this chapter.

The first thing that struck me was on page 46 in the point on anaerobic and aerobic bacteria. It states that E.coli are facultative anaerobes, which means that they are anaerobic, but can hack it if things go aerobic. This makes me wonder, then, how we can keep it out of our composts if we use manure. If aeration doesn't get rid of them, does the high heat?

I was really excited to finally understand nitrogen fixation! The details of this subject have always been a bit cloudy for me. I was surprised to learn that out of the 4 types of bacteria that take nitrogen that is a plant-inaccessible form and turn it into a plant accessible form, only 1 is the kind in legumes (oh, and I did remember noticing the root-nodules when I pulled the plans a few weeks ago :o). We so often hear about nitrogen fixation through beans,etc., that it is virtually the only form we think of when we hear the term. This article seems to indicate that there is also plenty of fixation going on from the other 3 types nitrogen-fixing bacteria that are just in the soil. Someone please correct me if I'm off on this one.

It was interesting to me that anaerobic bacteria produce compounds (alcohols) that are toxic to plants. However, it shouldn't surprise me when I think about some of the bacterial diseases that we see mentioned with different crops. It also makes perfect sense that there are only so many soil pore and so much rhizoshpere that bacteria can inhabit. It is easy to see how, if we keep our soils in aerobic conditions that favor the growth of beneficial bacterial populations and that harmful bacteria can't even survive, beneficial bacteria populations can really diminish harmful one.

On the subject of the soap, I remember an article I read not too long ago where the author questioned the persistent use of antibacterial soaps, arguing that they are also killing the beneficial bacteria on our skin, as well.

HG, it looks like all of our improper disposal of antibiotics and other microbial-resistant compounds, like microban, are encouraging our friendly soil bacteria to become potentially health-threatening.

However, to be fair, I'm sure there are cases when the occasional squirt of Purel does more good than harm. Cases like visiting a sick friend at home or in the hospital, where some particularly nasty microbes may be lurking.
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Maybe your "occasional squirt" of Purel gives you peace of mind, but if you have functioning immune system you shouldn't need it.

Here's highlights from an article in the most recent Newsweek that I found interesting:

"We all know that food allergies are on the rise—a study last year placed the rate at 1 per 70 children, compared with 1 in 250 in the 1970s. But at last month’s meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergists reported that many substances that once seemed innocuous are now leading to allergic reactions too [including nickel trim on cellphones, dyes in temporary tattoos, etc] ... So what’s behind all these newfangled allergens? Some researchers believe that as humans live in cleaner, safer, more disease-free environments, the immune system—given less to do thanks to antibiotics and Clorox—turns on substances once considered safe. "

I have heard the same thing about asthma and auto-immune diseases. One reason they are on the rise is that when children are raised in such nearly sterile environments and their immune system doesn't have anything to practice on (especially in the first few years of life), it doesn't develop the right skills at recognizing what to attack and turns on it's own body.
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RBG, [url=https://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/strengthen-immune-system-z10m0vau.aspx?page=4]here's[/url] an article I just read last night. The section on hygiene virtually repeats what you just said.

It looks like it's time we start teaming with microbes outside of the garden, as well.
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NOW yer gettin it, G5!

:D

HG
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