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The Power of Diversity

Notes From Our Research Team:

The Value of Microbial Diversity

Frail people have more health problems than robust humans.  In most cases difficulties result from microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses.  Phrases such as, “Strong as an ox” or “Eats like a horse,” reflect our innate understanding that human health and human vigor are positively related.  Hearty people may suffer intestinal distress from a bad meal, but generally they bounce back to good health more rapidly than their fragile relatives.

The same analogy applies to plants.  Vigorous trees have fewer disease problems than frail saplings.  We endorse this vibrancy model at Wild Soil™ because our data show that vigorous trees are less diseased and require fewer chemical inputs.

Modern science teaches that both humans and plants have immune systems.  As expected, immune systems in humans are more complex, but plants have receptors and mechanisms for fighting microbial insults.  As a first line of defense plants often release natural compounds that impair pathogenic bacteria and fungi.  Also, thickened surfaces and cell walls offer many benefits, including repelling marauding microbes.  If infections occur, plants have mechanisms for promoting death of their own cells, which creates a barrier to the spread of disease, or even sealing off part of an organ with callus growth.  All these mechanisms are enhanced by plant vigor.

Recent studies suggest that exposing humans to a diversity of microorganisms during birth and early development can stimulate and trigger a strong immune system.  It is reasonable to propose similar benefits accrue to plants that face diverse bacterial populations at a young age.  Our Wild Soil™ methodology is based on this concept, and our results support that hypothesis.  When our almond trees are first planted, we supply and promote a complex population of bacteria in soil surrounding the roots.  As a result, the roots are larger and the trees are more vigorous, as supported by measurements during the first 10 years.  In fact, continuous monitoring of microbial populations of compost, soil, and nuts forms the foundation for applying the Wild Soil™ method to our probiotic almonds.

Many common soil bacteria have life cycles that include associating with plants, passing through human consumers, and being returned to the soil.  Frequently, these hidden microbes can rest for years until they colonize another plant.  One can see how evolutionary forces favored such cycles: Bacteria that colonize plants are transported to new sites by humans and become pandemic.  Immune systems that are maintained in a vigilant state by exposure to benign microbes must add to the vibrancy of both plants and animals.  These benefits are lost when growth of diverse populations of soil microbes are impaired by agricultural practices.

Two simple tests show the harmful effects of common agricultural practices on growth of soil bacteria.  Synthetic nitrogen fertilizer slowed growth 99.9% (Fig.1), while OMRI-approved copper sulfate functioned as a biocide* by killing 99.9% of the bacteria (Fig.2).  Note the logarithmic scales in both figures.  The obvious conclusion from such tests is that these chemicals, at the accepted agricultural concentrations tested here, can disrupt soil microbial populations and destroy their beneficial effects on both plants and humans.  We address these problems at Wild Soil® Almonds by using compost to supply nitrogen and by not using any Class 1 pesticides, such as copper sulfate.  As a result, vibrant Wild Soil™ trees supply you with healthy probiotic nuts.

 

*Citations:
Sanchez Valenzuela, Antonio; Benomar, Nabil; Abriouel, Hikmate; et al.  Oct 2013. Journal of Food Protection, Volume:76, Issue:10, Pages:1806-1809.

Siyu Xu, et al. 2016. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, Volume: 22, No:5, Pages:1133-1146.

Gadi Borkow and Jeffrey Gabbay.  2005. Current Medicinal Chemistry.  Volume: 12, Pages:2163-2175.