Soil Microbes: The Invisible Managers of Soil Fertility
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Soil health is represented by its continuous capacity to function as a vital living system. Since soil health is the major driving factor for sustainable agriculture, it has to be preserved. Microorganisms are an essential and integral part of living soil influencing various biogeochemical cycles on major nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorous and other minerals and play superior role in maintaining soil health than other biological component of soil. They also have the capacity to suppress soil borne pathogens and indirectly help in agricultural productivity. Besides contribution of specific microbes to soil health by participating on nutrient cycles, certain other microbes directly/indirectly promote plant growth through the production of phytohormones, enzymes and by suppressing phytopathogens and insects. The vast functional and genetic diversity of microbial groups including bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes supports in all the above ways for soil health. This book chapter gives an outline of such microbes and their contribution in promoting soil health and its role as soil health indicators.