Advanced Soil Ecology Webinar Series

March 4, 2021, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST
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Advanced Soil Ecology Webinar Series

Illustration with a farm in the distance and healthy soil with organisms in the foreground

When: March 4, 11, 18, 25, and April 1, 1-2 p.m. each day.
Cost: Free. Registration is required.
Registration deadline: March 2 at 11 a.m.

This five-part webinar series takes a deeper dive into the hidden world of soil microbes. What functions do these organisms provide and how do management decisions affect the functioning of these communities? A diverse community of soil organisms is critical for optimizing crop health, production, and enhancing field conditions that benefit both farmers and the environment. Only by creating an environment to fully support these organisms, can we achieve maximum soil health.

The webinar series is a collaborative project by members of the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition and is co-hosted by Penn State University and Stroud Water Research Center.

Session 1 (March 4): Soil Bacteria: Small but Mighty

Bacteria may be the smallest of the microbes but they provide major services. From nitrogen fixation and cycling, to solubilizing phosphorus, to serving as a key microbial link in adding carbon to the soil system. This session discusses these critical services and how field conditions and management decisions affect the bacterial communities. Presenter: Lisa Blazure, Stroud Water Research Center.

Session 2 (March 11): Mycorrhizal Fungi: Networking for Plant Health

It’s the underground worldwide web. The vast network of fungal hyphae enables plants to communicate with each other, gather water and nutrients, and build soil structure. What is needed to support this essential network and what are the factors that disrupt it? Presenter: Lisa Blazure, Stroud Water Research Center.

Session 3 (March 18): Endophytes: Hidden Helpers in Plants

Endophytes are microbes, most often bacteria or fungi, that live within plants. Endophytes often have beneficial effects, such as pest and disease suppression, nutrient acquisition, and plant growth promotion. This session will cover some beneficial endophytes in agroecosystems and conditions that promote their presence in soil. Presenter: Mary Barbercheck, Department of Entomology, Penn State University.

Session 4 (March 25): Soil Food Web: Where the Hunters Become the Hunted

Healthy soils are home to an incredible diversity of organisms that interact in a soil food web. As these organisms eat, grow, and move through the soil, they support the ability of soil to support crop production and provide clean water, clean air, and moderated water flow. In this session, we will explore some beneficial food web interactions and how to promote and conserve them. Presenter: Mary Barbercheck, Department of Entomology, Penn State University.

Session 5 (April 1): Soil Microbiome: The Present and Future of Boosting Soil Health Through Microbial Management

Soil microorganisms play diverse critical roles in agricultural systems, so it’s obvious that they would be a target for farmer management. Microbes are typically invisible without the use of specialized tools and challenging for farmers to track the efficacy of approaches to manage them. In this session we will discuss the key roles of microorganisms in soils, approaches to microbial management, and challenges and future potential for microbial management in agriculture. Presenters: Terrence Bell, Laura Kaminsky, and Sarah Richards, Penn State University.