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According to the United Nations, sometime around 2050, the planet's human population will be close to 10 billion, a threshold that will stress many of the world's most important systems, especially agriculture.Naturally occurring microbes in soils help foster crop health and improve plant output.As I have seen in my own work, maize plants grown in soil infused with certain bacteria develop root systems that are triple the size of plants grown in untreated soils.After five waterless days, the treated plants still stood tall and robust, while the untreated plants wilted and withered.Today, roughly 65 percent of Africa's agricultural soil is degraded, lacking sufficient nutrients and microbial life to support plant health.Microbe-based solutions could, therefore, help improve soil quality more sustainably than traditional means, enabling African farmers to grow the crops needed to feed the continent's population.But research on African soil microbes remains limited, with most microbial solutions being developed for Western markets. More investment could enable scientists to discover new microbial strains with unique abilities to influence soil and crop health locally, thereby leveraging Africa's own natural environment to improve agricultural productivity.
Putting a price on soil, a way to encourage efforts
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