Dirt is a complex, largely unexplored world _ and thanks to the efforts of a Minnesota scientist, is becoming one of the newest frontiers of farming and science.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — There is life — tiny, microbial, can’t-see-it-with-the-naked-eye life — teeming in the dirt under our feet. It’s a complex, largely unexplored world — and thanks to the efforts of a Minnesota scientist, is becoming one of the newest frontiers of farming and science.

“Many scientists refer to microbial dark matter, just like we think of dark matter out in the universe, which is the unknown,” said University of Minnesota professor Linda Kinkel, who’s leading international research efforts to learn more about the microbes that live in soil. “The soil microbiome in particular, which is the most diverse microbiome on the planet, still remains largely unknown.”

Billions of microbes can live in a teaspoon of soil, but scientists don’t know much about how — or why — they’re there.

“And those microbes can do all kinds of amazing things that we’re really only at the very beginning of understanding,” Kinkel told Minnesota Public Radio .

Kinkel is at the forefront of that effort. She and a team of researchers are collecting microbiome data across the country to learn about how soil microbes affect potato plant diseases. She is also leading the international Agricultural Microbiomes Project to collect genetic data on life in soil from every continent except Antarctica.

Read the full article here.