March 30, 2021

New Bacterial Diversity Indicator Enables Deeper Insights 

 Farmers and agronomists now have new insight into the bacterial life present in their soil. The release of Trace Genomics’ Bacterial Diversity indicator is a delivery on the promise of continued learning from each sample. The new indicator enables a better picture of what’s happening to the bacterial portion of the soil microbiome. Just as exciting, we are able to apply the new indicator to all past, present and future samples. 

Deeper Insights 

The bacterial diversity measurement has two components:   

1.) The number of bacterial species in the sample   

2.) The balance of bacterial species  

A higher bacterial diversity value means that the sample has an abundance of bacterial species and a good balance. Conversely, a lower value would have fewer species and may be skewed to a specific group of species.    

If we have very few bacterial species, or the species we have are highly skewed one way or another, the soil microbiome can lack resilience. A lack of resilience can have negative consequences on the functioning of the soil. 

The lack of diversity can also be a sign of an underlying issue. This could be an inherent issue within the soil, but it could also signal a management problem.  

Bacterial diversity is expected to be higher at moderate soil pH and in soils that experience minimal disturbance, such as no-till. Bacterial diversity also tends to increase with decreasing soil moisture content. 

A New Advantage  

Since we extract and quantify all the fungal and bacterial DNA in a sample, Trace Genomics has the ability to surface very detailed results about specific organisms.  

At the same time, the addition of a bacterial diversity measurement allows us to combine that data and explore whats going on at the community level.   

Here is one example of how Trace’s bacterial diversity indicator can help drive insights at the field level.   

Recently, we were reviewing results with a grower. In his field, half of it had been treated with a fumigant and half had been planted with a cover crop. The results showed much higher bacterial diversity on the cover cropped half of the field.    

Upon deeper inspection, the pathogens detected by Trace were actually lower on the cover cropped area when compared to the fumigated area. These results led the grower to consider modifying management practices, including increasing the use of cover crops, to increase bacterial diversity with the goal of suppressing disease. 

The addition of the bacterial diversity indicator gives growers and agronomists an advantage. With the ability to explore soil biology at multiple levels, that means better-informed management decisions. The new indicator has been added to all samples in our database, delivering on Trace’s promise of continual advancement of the science of soil. 

Erik Christian, Agronomic Services Manager, Iowa  

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