This summer I grew potato plants in my experimental containers. Potato plants are famous for producing potatoes and at the end of the summer I was left with kilos of them. The set-up of the experiment is that sterile soils were inoculated with different soils with known fungal abundances (a gradient). This way the soil chemistry and nutrient contents are constant while the soil community and especially the amount of fungi in the soils varies. My main question is to test the effects of agricultural practices on the fungal communities, soil functions, and especially carbon cycling. But more on that in later posts...
This summer with the help of colleagues who volunteered, I tested if the taste of potatoes is different when they are grown with different fungal communities. In short, can you taste the soil fungal communities? And the answer is: YES! The experiment was done so that people tasting did not know which potatoes were grown in which soil. Out of 10 people tasting the potatoes, 7 picked the potatoes grown in one of the soils (soil #3) as their favorite. Coincidentally(??) this was also the soil with most fungi! Potatoes grown in soil #4 (soil with least fungi!) were by far least liked by the colleagues while potatoes from soils 1 & 2 got mixed reviews. This experiment was not done super scientifically as I am not an expert in tasting tests but shows that the taste of potatoes is dependent on soil microbes.
Maybe this is something we should study more in future?
If you wonder if insects liked the same plants – and the answer is NO. Aphids preferred soil #2 in summer and in autumn, brassica cover crops were damaged most (by Pieris caterpillars) in soil #4.
Already, happy world soil day on 5th of December!