- Microbial ecosystems within a soil body are in a meta-stable state.
- Pollution like fuel spills break down the meta-stable state stalling the microbial ecosystems.
- To repair the meta-stable state, EMS use BioLodestone, a proprietary solution that introduces a diversity of electron acceptors that facilitates ‘hydrocarbon eating bacteria’ growth in the soil.
- EMS’s BioLodestone is also rich in nutrients that enable ‘hydrocarbon-eating bacteria’ to thrive in the soil which means accelerated cleaning of soil.
Sustainable Soil Microbiomes
A thimbleful of soil contains more bacteria, fungi, and archaea than there are stars in the Milky Way (more than one hundred thousand million!). All these microbes interact with one another to form a dynamic biological system. Soil microbial systems are what we call meta-stable. One way to think of a meta-stable system is to imagine a small ‘ball’ and ‘bowl’. As you move the ‘bowl’ around, the ‘ball’ moves all over the ‘bowl’ but is always inside the ‘bowl’. The dynamic sway of the ‘bowl’ and spinning of the ‘ball’ are the essence of a sustainable microbiome.
But when we pollute the soil, we break the ‘bowl’, and the ball comes to rest. To clean the soil, we must repair the ‘bowl’ and get the ‘ball’ spinning once again. There are many different approaches to solving this problem.
- We can add new ‘balls’ to the system (think inoculants),
- We can try to build a new ‘bowl’ (think physical extraction methods); or
- We can try to repair the ‘bowl’, so that the microbes can start spinning again.
EMS’s approach is to repair the ‘bowl’ and we do this using our proprietary BioLodestone which is added to the soil brining a diversity of electron acceptors and increasing phosphorus bioavailability.
What is an electron acceptor you ask? Well, iron rusts because oxygen ‘accepts’ an electron ‘donated’ from the iron, and the iron is degraded or rusts which we always try to avoid on our cars, bicycles, etc.
Why do we care about phosphorus bioavailability? The short answer is phosphorus is an essential structural component of microbes and our bodies and is involved in energy production and metabolism (more on that in a future post).
Using Electron Acceptors
Just like we need oxygen to breathe, bacteria also use oxygen, but not to breathe since they don’t have lungs. Though the concept is very similar to what they really do. Bacteria get electrons from substances they are degrading, like hydrocarbons. Then, bacteria transfer electrons to oxygen creating carbon dioxide. Unlike us, who need oxygen to survive, bacteria can transfer electrons to not only oxygen, but also to nitrate, manganese, iron, sulphate, and even carbon dioxide!
Typically, when a fuel spill occurs, bacterial diversity rapidly declines resulting in very few bacteria active in soil1. The large amount of a single food source (i.e., hydrocarbons), combined with how this fuel dissolves bacteria, causes the few well-suited hydrocarbon-eating microbes to quickly use up their preferred electron acceptor (i.e., oxygen). The result of this oxygen depletion further stalls of microbial ecosystems. By adding a diversity of electron acceptors we create a diverse group of microorganisms happily living in the soil which is the critical first step towards repairing that ‘bowl’ and is in essence the very purpose of BioLodestone.
When we create an environment where a diverse group of microbes have the elements they need to ‘breathe’, we’ve repaired the ‘bowl’ allowing the complex bacterial community ‘ball’ to move around and gain momentum. To speed up the ‘ball’, we now need to address one of the largest constraints on happy microbial ecosystems: nutrient limitations.
Eliminating Nutrient Limitations
Bacteria, just like humans, need vitamins and nutrients to thrive.
We normally think about nutrients in terms of what is ‘limiting’. In other words, if we could only add more of this one nutrient, the entire community would work much better. In most soils, that nutrient is phosphorus. In fact, in most hydrocarbon communities you can find groups of microorganisms that acquire phosphorus and distribute it in a useful form (termed ‘bioavailable’) throughout the community2. BioLodestone adds a unique combination of phosphorus fertilizers and adjuncts to increase the amount of phosphorus (bio)available to bacteria.
By adding a diversity of electron acceptors, and a key nutrient we create a diverse sustainable microbial community. Diverse communities are the key to a healthy soil, and healthy soils equal clean soils.