SUMMARY: Soil micro-organisms have been counted by a new technique whose essential feature is the suspension of measured amounts of soil in a molten agar gel from which small drops are removed and allowed to solidify as thin films on a haemocytometer slide of known depth. The instantaneous gelation of the agar ensures the fixation of the soil constituents in their original distribution. The films are dried and stained in a solution of acetic-aniline blue and permanent preparations made by subsequent dehydration in ethanol and mounting in euparal. If the suspension is of known dilution, since films of a definite volume contain a known quantity of soil, differential counts of a measured area of film will yield a quantitative estimate of soil micro-organisms.

The distribution of bacteria per microscopic field was found to be complex. The frequencies of bacterial colonies and of pieces of fungal mycelium form a Poisson series; those of the number of bacteria per colony form a logarithmic series; and those of the total number of bacteria per field fall into a negative binomial distribution.

The method appears to be capable of modification by the use of selective nutrient media for determining the quality of the microflora and possibly the percentage viability of the organisms present.


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