Scientists in Japan have found a way to lower the acidity of soil with the help of a bacterium they found in the earth of tea plantations. The rod-shaped Flavobacterium ST-3991, which tints soil yellow, appears to create a protein that simultaneously lowers soil acidity and absorbs harmful aluminum ions. The aluminum ions are created when acidic soil breaks down aluminum oxides.

The work was performed by a joint research team from Shizuoka University's Agriculture Dept. and the Kanagawa Environmental Research Center. The researchers say the Flavobacterium could reduce plant damage from aluminum ions at the same time that it amplifies the effectiveness of lime, which is ordinarily used for neutralizing acidic soils. Ikuo Souta, a Kanagawa researcher, says it could also neutralize acidic ponds, making them usable for irrigation.

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