Soil crisis brought about by climate change may hit global food production, claims alarming new research

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The full article by Tom Bawden was originally written for The Independent

The world is facing a soil crisis that could badly hit food production, according to alarming new research.

A 17-year study into the effect of global warming on microbes – the tiny bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms that determine soil health – reveals them to be far less adaptable to changing conditions than expected. It raises concerns the microbes will not be able to carry out essential functions, such as breaking down leaves and other organic matter in a process which converts them into nitrogen and other nutrients that plants need to grow.

“If the microbial community is not as resilient as we had assumed, then it calls into question the resilience of the overall environment to climate change,” said the report’s author Vanessa Bailey, of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the US.

It is often said “microbes run the world” because they are so numerous and lie behind countless ecosystem services in the soil. These include producing humus – the dark organic material in soils – and providing a critical water filter system for trees, in return for feeding on their sugars.

Read more via The Independent
Soil crisis brought about by climate change may hit global food production, claims alarming new research