Research into varieties of custom bred microbes that can help plants produce more food is the goal of some international researchers. They see microbes allowing more food production with little or no environmental downside.
“Now, many scientists are saying that we’ve been looking at the wrong set of genes. Instead of in plants, the crucial genes may reside in the galaxy of bacteria and fungi that live in the soil and throughout a plant—the kind that (Ian) Sanders studies,” as reported by Cynthia Graber for an article in NOVA Next and PBS.
Ian Sanders, Ph.D., researcher at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, is one of those researchers who sees more food to feed more people being partially solved by microbes. Graber wrote a lengthy article explaining the science and Sanders’ research and results.
“Microbes in the soil function much like the human microbiome, which helps us break down food, access nutrients, and defend against harmful invaders. A plant’s microbiome protects it against malevolent microbes. Microbes can also communicate with one another, flashing chemical alerts that let one plant know when another nearby is under attack. Bacteria and fungi even structure the soil so that it clumps together and doesn’t blow or wash away. And, just as our human cells are outnumbered by our microbial support, the microbial genes in and near the root system alone of a healthy plant greatly eclipse those of the plant itself,” Graber wrote.
The research into interaction of microbes and plants is gaining a lot of attention as noted in the article. One of Sanders’ contributions includes taking different fungi and breeding them together to produce ones that are even more supportive to plant growth and yield.
The article outlines the various blockages to success that Sanders is overcoming but also the successes that occurring with dozens of field trials such as those in 14 states of the U.S. where testing of microbial products are being tested in corn, soybean, wheat, barley and rice production.