Really small biology
Out of sight and out of mind may be true in many cases, but the small things in biology that we cannot see really are important and should not be far from the front of our minds, particularly if you are a gardener or horticulturalist.
The organisms that are too small to see are clumped together under the heading of microbiology. In fact some of them, such as fungi, are only out of sight for part of their life cycle and at other points in their lives they are seriously big. Microbiology therefore is the study of bacteria, fungi, and viruses and any of the other "little fellows" in the living world. (We could argue about whether viruses are actually alive but let's save that for another day!)
There are undoubtedly more microbes in the world than any other group of organisms. There are not only more species of microbes than all the rest put together, there are more individual organisms in the microbes than in all the other groups. In fact it is fair to say that most of biology takes place in side a microbe and thus microbiology covers far more biology than for example the study of mammals
You may ask why these microbes are of importance to some one who is interested in plants. Here goes...
- Potato blight caused the starvation of over 1 million people in Ireland in the 19th century - just five generations ago;
- Peas & beans have a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that grab nitrogen from the atmosphere and give it to the plants in return for board and lodging in the roots of the peas & beans;
- Virus diseases of plants are currently threatening much of the world's banana production;
- Over 95% of plant species need a fungus growing around their roots to grow efficiently and successfully;
- Farmers are now inoculating their soil with fungi to reduce the amount of fertiliser that they have to apply;
... and I could go on.
A knowledge of microbiology - the lives of microbes - is invaluable to anyone interested in a career in land based industries and particularly horticulture.
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