There has been increasing attention paid to the health of soil microbial populations. Controversy surrounding organic vs. inorganic fertilizers, natural vs. synthetic pesticides continues. Researchers are continuing their efforts to fully describe the behavior of soil microbes and the impact of our cultural practices on them. Surprisingly, researchers from the USDA Service Center in Redding, Calif., found that compaction in a forest plantation had little effect on the population of soil microbes. Even though soil macropores were reduced 50 to 90 percent, there was no decrease — and sometimes an increase — in the microbes. These results were seen in both a sandy loam and a clay loam soil under laboratory and field conditions. While the number of air pores was drastically reduced, the number of microbe-inhabiting water pores (micropores) was increased by at least 40 percent in both types of soil. Their results showed broad tolerance of microbes to compaction under these conditions.

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