There is growing interest in the important ways that microbes impact all facets of our life. “In our bodies, they help fight off disease. In the soil, they help deliver nutrients to plants, and perhaps much more.” They’ve been in use for decades, especially against insects and weeds. What would agricultural production – and productivity – look like if microbes could replace some chemicals? We may soon find out.
Dan Charles (@nprDanCharles) writes for NPR’s The Salt.
[Pam] Marrone is also looking for microbes that kill weeds — and she thinks she may have found one. The company’s scientists discovered it in soil collected from the garden of a Buddhist temple in Japan. It doesn’t harm insects, but it kills many plants. Marrone thinks that it might eventually be a weedkiller that organic farmers can use. She says there’s huge demand for such a thing.
“I can go into a chemical distributor in the Central Valley of California and say, ‘What’s your greatest unmet need?’ and honest to God, this chemical dealer will tell me it’s organic weed control,” she says. “It’s remarkable.”
Big players like Bayer, DuPont and Monsanto are jumping in. And the search is on for a new way to use microbes in agricultural production. Some call it “probiotics” for crops; their use may boost productivity. But much remains to be learned.
A fascinating piece.
Can this scientist bring genetic engineers and organic farmers together?
Research: Cultivated sweet potatoes were genetically modified (naturally)