Study suggests microbial solution will boost harvest yields

The researchers in a field trial program to improve crop harvests using naturally occurring microbes released their results yesterday.

The study -- a collaboration between the BioAg Alliance, Novozymes and Monsanto -- concluded that a corn inoculant from fungus can be coated on corn seeds, increasing yields by an average of four bushels per acre.

“The BioAg Alliance is focused on identifying ways that soil microbial solutions can deliver improved harvests from existing land,” Brad Griffith, Monsanto's vice president of Global Microbials, said. “This work is critically important to farmers as they work to meet demands and preserve their soil system. This breakthrough collaboration is unlocking new insights into soil microbial candidates to benefit farmers and our work with this corn seed inoculant is a great example of the results of our combined research.”

Two different microbial products, inoculants and biocontrol products are marketed by The BioAg Alliance and can be applied to seeds before being planted. Inoculant products help plants take in nutrients better while biocontrol products protect against outside stresses like disease and pests. The current BioAg Alliance microbial project is the largest of its kind with more than 2,000 microbial strains across 500,000 field trial plots in more than 50 U.S. locations.

“I believe we will witness a microbial revolution in agriculture”, Thomas Schäfer, vice president of BioAg research at Novozymes, said. “The world needs to produce more crops from our arable land while using fewer resources. The more we learn about microbes and their symbiotic relationships with plants, the more we realize how key they are to this challenge.”

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