Cold has invaded the Midwest, and we are getting a little of it. Temperatures dropped to 20 degrees last night and a few snow flakes fell yesterday. My hometown of Moline is facing 6 inches of snow.
Different crews of bacteria work at high temperatures, moderate temperatures, and cold temperatures. They even multiply in the deep freezer - reason to finish that ice cream early rather than late.
Bacteria are not alone, since they work and battle with earthworms, protozoa, nematodes, fungi, and other forms of life created by God to inhabit and improve the soil.
Some are good at ripping, rasping, and shredding - springtails, earthworms, and slugs. Fungi have no mouth parts, but they can dissolve compounds through touch, so they are the primary decomposers and shippers of nutrition and moisture to plant roots. Some creatures have extra nitrogen compounds so their deaths mean nitrogen is added to soil when they are digested and excreted. Each one seems to insignificant, but together they move the entire yard, the entire surface of the earth where soil, organic matter, and moisture allow.
|Here a fungus traps and kills a nematode.|
The plant root will offer carbon credits for the extra nitrogen it needs,
good for the fungus, which must have carbon to grow.
One major advantage fungi have over bacteria, and perhaps the reason they were misclassified for so long as plants, is the ability of fungal hyphae to grow in length. Unlike bacterial cells, whose world is a very finite one , fungal hyphae can travel over space measured in feet or meters, distances that for a bacterium are truly epic. And unlike bacteria, fungi do not need a film of water in order to spread through the soil. Fungal hyphae are thus able to bridge gaps and go short distances, which allows them to locate new food sources and transport nutrients from one location to another , relatively far away from its origin.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; Lowenfels, (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 846-850). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
The following section tells us why the Creation gardener does not need to work so hard. Fungi and other creatures do so much, if left alone.
The ability to transport nutrients is another key difference between fungi and bacteria. Fungal hyphae contain cytoplasm, a liquid circulated throughout the septa in their cells. When a hyphal tip invades a nematode, for example, it drains its hapless victim of its nutrients and distributes them in the hyphal cytoplasm and from there through the main body of the fungus. Nutrients are thus transferred from the tip of the fungal hypha to a wholly new location that can be several yards away (think conveyor belt). Once inside the fungus, the nutrients are immobilized and will not be lost from the soil.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 850-854). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
Although we do not think about it often, the microscopic creatures are constantly feeding and serving as food. The net result is soil improvement by increasing and holding vast stores of plant nutrition. Diversity of life means they balance one another and also produce a variety of benefits.
The acidic digestive substances produced by fungi and leaked out of their hyphal tips are similar to those utilized by humans; fungi don’t require a stomach as a vessel in which to digest food, however. Like bacteria, fungi lack mouthparts; instead, fungal decay breaks up organic materials into compounds the fungus can then ingest through its cell walls via diffusion (osmosis) and active transport. Nutrients taken in by fungi are usually immobilized, just as they are when ingested by bacteria, and later released. Like bacteria, then, fungi should be viewed as living containers of fertilizer.
Lewis, Wayne; Lowenfels, Jeff; (2010-09-10). Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Kindle Locations 891-896). Timber Press. Kindle Edition.
Given that 500,000 bacteria would fit on the period at the end of this sentence, that banana peel I toss in the compost is more than a whale for the bacteria and fungi to devour. Their numbers are so great that they can handle that peel and much more.
Plants do not eat banana peels, but soil creatures do. Compost denizens use their special gifts to do their part in reducing the peel to food, with earthworms coming into the mix at the end to blend and aerate it, and leave earthworm cocoons behind.
|Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of the fungus.|
One fly agaric takes millions of strands to form.