Microorganisms, agriculture, and rain

I’ve written previously about how bacteria (and other microorganisms) are important to the health of soil, and how certain agricultural practices can harm those organisms and reduce that health.

Well now people are asking if some of those same practices (like use of pesticides) might also be contributing to drought and other disruptions in weather patterns, because of its impact on bacteria. It has been known for a while that certain bacteria become airborne and are a significant factor in causing ice nucleation in clouds, and a great amount of rain comes from ice (rather than suspended unfrozen water).

From California Drought: A Surprising Cause? :

. . . the atmospheric microbiome actually regulates rain and snow formation and precipitation. In fact, Earth is surrounded by microbes and the products of microbes flying from land to sky and back to land. A recent article explains how “Over land outside the tropics, only 1 percent of rain events involve ice-free clouds, according to the new study.” And what is the most significant rain-making bacteria identified to date but an ice-nucleating bacteria called Pseudomonas syringae?  Perhaps it would be more accurate to speak of these bacteria in the atmosphere in toto not as a microbiome but an “atmospheric macrobiome.”

. . .

The herbicide glufosinate used on almond farms in California is known to significantly reduce rainmaking bacteria. Bayer’s glufosinate is used in tandem with and as an alternative to Monsanto’s glyphosate (Roundup) for weed control. Resistance to glyphosate is creating a larger market for glufosinate.

Glyphosate is persistent in the environment, commonly found in airrain, groundwater and rivers. Exactly how glyphosate affects the function of rainmaking bacteria appears unknown and overlooked.

There’s another “goodie” in the article – seems a mutant strain of bacteria was found without the ice-nucleating ability, and later it was recreated in the lab, and let out into the wild . . . and it has a competitive advantage over the ice-nucleating bacteria. (How large an area has been affected, this article did not say.)

The rain-making bacteria present an interesting trade-off problem. They cause rain, but for the same reason they create rain, they’re considered a problem for crops, because they can cause frost damage.

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About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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