Can probiotic seed coatings for plants increase crop yields?

| | February 23, 2016
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A startup launched [in mid-February] with a radical plan for helping to feed the earth’s growing population . . . The company, Indigo, says it plans to replenish the microbiome of crops, adding back in microbes that have been killed over years of heavy use of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides. It aims to do this by selling a probiotic seed coating for crops like corn, cotton, wheat, and soybeans.

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Indigo won’t say which microbes it replaced, or how the seed coating works. . . . It plans to share data from the trials for peer review in the future, but won’t offer any concrete timing.

. . . . And while the recent enthusiasm for our own microbiome has brought the subject into the popular consciousness, the study of how it impacts plants has actually been going on for centuries. . . .

Farmers often tried to tap into these benefits. . . rotating crops and transplanting soil in a way that encouraged a healthy microbiome to thrive. Unfortunately, just as often, they treated microbes as a threat to be suppressed, killing off helpful bacteria in equal number.

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. . . the notion that finding ways to replenish the microbiome of plants could increase crop yields was endorsed by the American Society for Microbiology back in December of 2012. . .

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Taken together, just four of Indigo’s initial focus crops — corn, soy, wheat, and cotton — amount for hundreds of billions of dollars in annual sales. A 10 percent increase would have a massive impact on both the availability of food and on farmers’ pocketbooks, potentially positioning Indigo as a massive business.

Read full, original post: One startup’s plan to grow more crops: put the germs back in

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