One example of a beneficial microorganism is the well-known Lactobacillus bacteria. It exists in milk, helps make yogurt & improves our digestion. Saccharomyces is another great bacteria that helps people make bread & beer. Thanks to these guys, the foods we eat are much easier to digest, much more nutritious & many times taste even better.

You'll find many good microbes in the fermentation process which are incredibly useful in the garden. These little creatures help us build the soil fertility, provide immediately-digestible nutrients to the plants & eliminate odor in compost piles. Some can even help purify the water & toxic gases in ponds.

Let's meet their faces

When people talk about microorganism, they usually refer to different types of micro species invisible to the naked eyes like:

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Algae
  • Archaea
  • Viruses
  • Protozoa
  • Parasites

Although there are many bad microbes hanging around, there are still many good microbes that we can use to our benefits. The beneficial microbes we focus here are mostly bacteria & fungi. Some algae are actually very beneficial too. Up until now, there is still relatively little research about them. But they can be an interesting exploration & we'll find out more about them hopefully.

You already know two of the most common bacteria, Lactobacillus & Saccharomyces, let's see some other:

  • Lactic acid bacteria (LAB): these ones can lactate (turn into lactic acid) the carbohydrate in the foods they eat, creating an acidic environment that other pathogens don't dare to step foot in.
  • Yeast: used in bread & beer making. They thrive in a starchy environment. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is one common example.
  • Photosynthetic bacteria (PSB): these ones love light. They grow & multiply well under the sun. You'll find plenty of them in hot spring water, rain water, Guppy fish pond water, irrigation canals & sometimes tap water.

The fungi people often use to compost animal manure or for home composting is called Trichoderma. This is a good fungi & they usually sell them in a pre-packaged bag. With these established in your compost, the other molds won't be anywhere near.

The microbes in one area may be different from the other one. So they have something called the IMO or indigenous microorganism–where we actually go out in the forests to 'hunt' for these guys. People build a collection box with hard-cooked non-sticky rice grains in it to attract the microbes. It's lots of fun with couple of failures here & there. But overall a great learning opportunity.

Have fun exploring

The next question many folks ask when knowing a bit about beneficial microbes is can we combine them or will they compete with each other. To be honest with you, we don't really know. It's certainly a great question for exploration. If we can bring about the synergy of good microbes (bacteria + fungi), then it will be a great symphony of nature. Keep on exploring.

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