Soil microorganisms can be classified into decomposer and synthetic microorganisms. The decomposer microorganisms are subdivided into groups that perform oxidative and fermentative decomposition. The fermentative group is further divided into useful fermentation (simply called fermentation) and harmful fermentation (called putrefaction). The synthetic micro organisms can be subdivided into groups having the physiological abilities to fix atmospheric nitrogen into amino acids and/or carbon dioxide into simple organic molecules through photosynthesis.
Fermentation is an anaerobic process by which cultivate microorganisms (e.g., yeasts) transform complex organic molecules (e.g., carbohydrates) into simple organic compounds that often can be absorbed directly by plants. Fermentation yields a relatively small amount of energy compared with aerobic decomposition of the same substrate by the same group of microorganisms. Aerobic decomposition results in complete oxidation of a substrate and the release of large amounts of energy, gas, and heat with carbon dioxide and water as the end products. Putrefaction is the process by which facultative heterotrophic microorganisms decompose proteins anaerobically, yielding malodorous and incompletely oxidized metabolites (e.g., ammonia, mercaptans and in dole) that are often toxic to plants and animals.
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