Soil

Microbes may be the new gold rush of agriculture

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Studying the microbes in soil may prove to be game-changing research for agriculture.

We’ve been hearing about medical microbes for some time now—for instance, how the use of synthetic probiotics can help people with stomach disorders work through health issues and enjoy a happier, healthier lifestyle.

In recent years, dietitians and physicians have been pushing the consumption of yogurt as a natural way to replenish probiotics, or good bacteria, into the human digestive system.

But a growing development in agriculture is beginning to refocus research into microbials in a big way with major agro-industrial giants like Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, Arysta LifeScience and others betting the farm (pardon the pun) that beneficial soil bacteria and fungi can change the way we farm globally by increasing plant efficiency, ultimately resulting in higher yields and other factors designed to provide positive results for producers.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) involvement in developing an in-house incubator through VentureLabs was one of the major catalysts that gave birth to David Perry’s Indigo of Cambridge, Mass., a new startup operation that provided a great deal of research and product development into microbial applications for agriculture. Perry says he believes it is possible to develop beneficial bacteria and fungi into a benefit for plants that’s similar to the way probiotics aid human microbiome.

Simply put, human microbiotics include bacteria, fungi, and archaea. It is believed those that do not cause disease are beneficial to human health. Perry and other researchers believe the same is true for soil microbials and plants.

He believes if the right types of microbes can be removed from soil, altered, and introduced into seeds or plants,  could represent an agricultural revolution. Such beneficial organisms could help to boost growth, increase resistance to drought, disease and pests, increase yields and greatly reduce farmers’ reliance on fertilizers and pesticides.

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