Weed-killing microbes could be next crop tech

| | June 16, 2015

What if farmers, instead of picking up some agricultural chemicals at their local dealer, picked up a load of agricultural microbes instead?

It's something to contemplate, because some big names in the pesticide business — like Bayer and Monsanto — are putting money behind attempts to turn soil microbes into tools that farmers can use to give their crops a boost.

The most direct way to take advantage of microbes in farming — an approach that's been around for decades, in fact — is to deploy them as weapons against insects or weeds.

Pam Marrone, founder of Marrone Bio Innovations, in Davis, Calif., has been spent most of her professional life looking for such microbial pesticides and bringing them to market.

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."

Biopesticides have long been popular in small corners of agriculture, like organic farming.

Now big chemical companies are jumping in. That's partly because organic farming is growing. But even conventional farmers are under pressure to use fewer toxic chemicals.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Mighty Farming Microbes: Companies Harness Bacteria To Give Crops A Boost


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