What are the major impact of microorganisms on the cycle of matter?

Microorganisms play an important role for the benefits of agriculture by the cycling of nutrients. For example, a greater portion of major crop plants are legumes. Bacteria and Legumes have the close relation and live together that form structures called nodules on their roots. Bacteria that stay in the root nodules convert atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into ammonia (NH3) that the plants consume as a nitrogen source for growth and development.

On the other hand, some other bacteria cycle sulfur compounds, oxidizing toxic sulfur species such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S) into sulfate (SO42-), which is considered as a necessary plant nutrient for plant growth.

Microorganisms that inhabit in the ruminant animals (cattle and sheep) have major agricultural importance. Ruminant animals have a special digestive vessel called the rumen in which large populations of microorganisms digest and ferment cellulose at neutral pH. Cellulose is the major component of plant cell walls. In the absence of these symbiotic microorganisms, cattle and sheep could not digest on cellulose-rich food materials, such as grass and hay.

Beside the positive impact, microorganisms can also, of course, have negative effects on plants and animals. For example, every year we experience a huge economic loss in the agricultural sector causing microbial disease. In some cases a severe human illness can happen due to having contaminated food product. This particular scenario can be seen when pathogenic Escherichia coli or Salmonella is transmitted from infected meat, or when contaminated fresh fruits and vegetables are mixed with microbial pathogens. So it can be said that, microorganisms have both positive and negative impact in the agriculture industry.

Fig: Role of microbes in agricultural sector (Brock Biology of Microorganisms, 13ed.)

Written by:
Md. Rayhan Mahmud
Research Student, Department of Ecology and Population Genetics
University of Oulu, Finland
M.Sc. in Microbiology, Jagannath University, Bangladesh

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