Soil Microorganism: Bacteria

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Soil Microorganism: Bacteria

Amongst the different microorganisms inhabiting in the soil, bacteria are the most abundant and predominant organisms. These are primitive, prokaryotic, microscopic and unicellular microorganisms without chlorophyll. Morphologically, soil bacteria are divided into three groups viz Cocci (round/spherical), (rod-shaped) and Spirilla I Spirllum (cells with long wavy chains). Bacilli are most numerous followed by Cocci and Spirilla in soil.

The most common method used for isolation of soil bacteria is the "dilution plate count" method which allows the enumeration of only viable/living cells in the soil. The size of soil bacteria varies from 0.5 to 1.0 micron in diameter and 1.0 to 10.0 microns in length. They are motile with locomotory organs flagella.
Bacterial population is one-half of the total microbial biomass in the soil ranging from 1,00000 to several hundred millions per gram of soil, depending upon the physical, chemical and biological conditions of the soil.

Winogradsky (1925), on the basis of ecological characteristics classified soil microorganisms in general and bacteria in particular into two broad categories i.e. Autochnotus (Indigenous species) and the Zymogenous (fermentative). Autochnotus bacterial population is uniform and constant in soil, since their nutrition is derived from native soil organic matter (eg. Arthrobacter and Nocardia whereas Zymogenous bacterial population in soil is low, as they require an external source of energy, eg. Pseudomonas & Bacillus. The population of Zymogenous bacteria increases gradually when a specific substrate is added to the soil. To this category belong the cellulose decomposers, nitrogen utilizing bacteria and ammonifiers.

As per the system proposed in the Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, most of the bacteria which are predominantly encountered in soil are taxonomically included in the three orders, Pseudomonadales, Eubacteriales and Actinomycetales of the class Schizomycetes. The most common soil bacteria belong to the genera Pseudomonas, Arthrobacter, Clostridium Achromobacter, Sarcina, Enterobacter etc. The another group of bacteria common in soils is the Myxobacteria belonging to the genera Micrococcus, Chondrococcus, Archangium, Polyangium, Cyptophaga.

Bacteria are also classified on the basis of physiological activity or mode of nutrition, especially the manner in which they obtain their carbon, nitrogen, energy and other nutrient requirements. They are broadly divided into two groups i.e. a) Autotrophs and b) Heterotrophs

  1. Autotrophic bacteria are capable synthesizing their food from simple inorganic nutrients, while heterotrophic bacteria depend on pre-formed food for nutrition. All autotrophic bacteria utilize Co2 (from atmosphere) as carbon source and derive energy either from sunlight (photoautotrophs, eg. Chromatrum. Chlorobium. Rhadopseudomonas or from the oxidation of simple inorganic substances present in soil (chemoautotrophs eg. Nitrobacter, Nitrosomonas, Thiaobacillus).

  2. Majority of soil bacteria are heterotrophic in nature and derive their carbon and energy from complex organic substances/organic matter, decaying roots and plant residues. They obtain their nitrogen from nitrates and ammonia compounds (proteins) present in soil and other nutrients from soil or from the decomposing organic matter. Certain bacteria also require amino acids, B- Vitamins, and other growth promoting substances also.

Functions / Role of Bacteria:

Bacteria bring about a number of changes and biochemical transformations in the soil and thereby directly or indirectly help in the nutrition of higher plants growing in the soil. The important transformations and processes in which soil bacteria play vital role are: decomposition of cellulose and other carbohydrates, ammonification (proteins ammonia), nitrification (ammonia-nitrites-nitrates), denitrification (release of free elemental nitrogen), biological fixation of atmospheric nitrogen (symbiotic and non-symbiotic) oxidation and reduction of sulphur and iron compounds. All these processes play a significant role in plant nutrition,


Bacterial genera

Cellulose     decomposition     (celluloytic bacteria ) most cellulose decomposers are mesophilic

a.       Aerobic : Angiococcus, Cytophaga, Polyangium, Sporocytophyga, Bacillus, Achromobacter, Cellulomonas
b.      anaerobic: Clostridium Methanosarcina, Methanococcus

Ammonification (Ammonifiers)

Bacillus, Pseudomonas

Nitrification (Nitrifying bacteria)

Nitrosomonas, Nilrobacter Nitrosococcus

Denitrification (Denitrifies)

Achromobacter, Pseudomonas, Bacillus, Micrococcus

Nitrogen fixing bacteria

a       Symbiotic- Rhizobium, Bradyrrhizobium
b       Non-symbiotic:      aerobic – Azotobacter Beijerinckia   (acidic soils), anaerobic-Clostridium


Bacteria capable of degrading various plant residues in soil are :































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