Environmental Microbiology Research Group

University of Limerick, Department of Life Sciences

Welcome to the University of Limerick Environmental Microbiology Research Group (EMRG) homepage.

Why is soil microbiology important?

Today, 99.7% of the world’s food production is achieved on the thin skin of our planet’s surface called soil. Although we are so dependent on this natural resource mankind treats soils like dirt. Indeed, many important soil process are still poorly understood and this is in particular the case for the function of soil microorganisms.

The interaction between plants, symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi and associated microbes is of critical importance in the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients that supports life on our planet. One of the greatest challenges of this century will be to prevent loss of soil fertility in order to feed the increasing world population and to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Sustainable plant growth requires sustained supplies of available nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur. This can be achieved by inorganic fertilizers or, more sustainably, through recycling of organic material.

Recycling and storage are key soil functions, the loss of which causes fertility to fall. Furthermore, soil is being lost 10-50 times faster than its rate of formation worldwide. The need for more sustainable soil management including reduction in fossil fuel use in agriculture requires the development of more efficient utilization of stored soil nutrients and harnessing the natural activities of organisms in nutrient cycling in order to secure long-term food production. Indeed, the European Commission has set up a thematic strategy on soil protection with the aim to protect soils and ensure a sustainable use.

Colonies of bacteria isolated on R2A from the rhizosphere

DNA fingerprint of bacterial rhizosphere communities (DGGE of 16S rRNA gene fragments)

Epifluorescence microcopy of Rhodococcus sp.
Subpages (3): Biochar Restoration SGM2014