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MENOMINEE NATION, Wis. – Wisconsin has been a hotbed of agricultural innovation. Farmers here have often been quick to adopt new practices to improve fertility and increase crop yields. Since European settlement, and especially in the past century, practices like crop rotation, soil amendment, fertilization, irrigation, seed selection, agroforestry and even the use of biochar have been studied or adopted.

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For thousands of years humans have altered microbial communities in a quest to improve agricultural crops. Knowledge about the roles microbes play in agricultural systems has grown rapidly in recent years, but not yet to the point at which farmers and society have reaped benefits.