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Healthy soil requires a delicate interplay between fungi and bacteria living in it. Together, these microorganisms help keep soil and the plants who rely on it for nutrients healthy, and they even create new soil. Sometimes soil can skew toward increased presence of fungi, and sometimes the ratio of bacteria is higher. While neither is inherently better than the other, both can create different outcomes for the organisms which rely on the soil to live and grow.
There’s a lot more to soil than just dirt, and soil health can be as complex as the health of our own bodies. A nuanced dance between fungi, bacteria, and organisms from earthworms to burrowing rodents is constantly unfolding in the soil. The cycles of birth, death, and nutrients passing from one organism to the next all contribute to the health of the soil, as well as generate new layers of it.
The soil food web varies by biome and region. In a patch of native prairie grass, for example, the ratio of fungi to bacteria in the soil could be close to 1:1. It’s the same for field of annual grains and vegetables, according to an article from PermacultureNews.org. In a forest, however, soil may contain a fungi to bacteria ratio of up to 50:1, heavily favoring fungi.
Depending on what you’re trying to grow, you may need a different ratio of fungi to bacteria in your soil. There are steps you can take to foster the right ratio, such as using woody materials that fungi favor, like mulch, or inoculating your soil with native fungi species. The best thing to do is decide what you want to grow, and then find out more about how your soil should ideally be composed to benefit those species.