Report proposes microbiology's grand challenge to help feed the world

Aug 27, 2013

A greater focus on the role of microbiology in agriculture combined with new technologies can help mitigate potential food shortages associated with world population increases according to a new report from the American Academy of Microbiology.

"Microbes are essential partners in all aspects of , but human efforts to improve have focused solely on the plant," says Ian Sanders of University of Lausanne, chair of the colloquium that produced the report. "Optimizing the microbial communities that live in, on and around plants, can substantially reduce the need for , pesticides and herbicides."

The report, How Microbes can Help Feed the World, is based on the deliberation of a group of scientific experts who gathered for two days in Washington DC in December 2012 to consider a series of questions regarding how plant-microbe interactions could be employed to boost in an environmentally and economically responsible way.

It starts with a startling statistic: In order to feed the estimated global population of 9 billion in the year 2050, agricultural yields will have to increase by 70-100% .

Improved understanding of plant-microbe interactions has the potential to increase by 20% while reducing fertilizer and pesticide requirements by 20%, within 20 years, according to the report. These estimates rest on the recognition that all plants rely on microbial partners to secure nutrients, deter pathogens and resist environmental stress.

The report looks in depth at the intimate relationship between microbes and agriculture including why plants need microbes, what types of microbes they need, how they interact and the scientific challenges posed by the current state of knowledge. It then makes a series of recommendations, including greater investment in research, the taking on of one or more such as characterization of the complete microbiome of one important crop plant, and the establishment of a formal process for moving scientific discoveries from the lab to the field.

"New technologies are making plant-microbe ecosystems easier to study and investment in this area of research could have dramatic benefits," says Marilynn Roossinck, Pennsylvania State University, who helped organize the colloquium.

Explore further: The origin of the language of life

More information: academy.asm.org/index.php/brow… -help-feed-the-world

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microbes team up to boost plants' stress tolerance

Feb 18, 2013

(Phys.org)—While most farmers consider viruses and fungi potential threats to their crops, these microbes can help wild plants adapt to extreme conditions, according to a Penn State virologist.

Gene silencing set to boost agricultural yields

Apr 30, 2013

Researchers from Murdoch University have developed an environmentally friendly 'gene silencing' method to control Root Lesion Nematodes, plant pathogens known to reduce crop yields in major crops such as whea ...

Fungi reduce need for fertilizer in agriculture

May 23, 2011

The next agricultural revolution may be sparked by fungi, helping to greatly increase food-production for the growing needs of the planet without the need for massive amounts of fertilizers according to research presented ...

Plant biology advances rapidly to help feed the world

May 07, 2013

(Phys.org) —A series of new discoveries in plant cell biology will help to increase the supply of food and energy for our rapidly growing global population, according to 12 of the world's leading plant ...

Plant research funding crucial for the future

Jun 01, 2012

The scientific community needs to make a 10-year, $100 billion investment in food and energy security, says Carnegie's Wolf Frommer and Tom Brutnell of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in an opinion piece published ...

Recommended for you

The origin of the language of life

33 minutes ago

The genetic code is the universal language of life. It describes how information is encoded in the genetic material and is the same for all organisms from simple bacteria to animals to humans. However, the ...

Quest to unravel mysteries of our gene network

Dec 18, 2014

There are roughly 27,000 genes in the human body, all but a relative few of them connected through an intricate and complex network that plays a dominant role in shaping our physiological structure and functions.

EU court clears stem cell patenting

Dec 18, 2014

A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can be patented, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.