Renewable Farming

Major ag firms launch massive microbial research projects for ag “sustainability”

More than 30 years ago, AgriEnergy Resources founder Dave Larson told farmer seminars that the most important quality of a fertile soil is “the greatest number and variety of microbial life.”

Now the “big six” ag chemical and seed companies are launching mega-million-dollar research projects to identify (and most likely patent) the most effective microbes which convert soil nutrients to plant food.

An online report by Scientific American offers a detailed report in its current issue. Indiana farmer Hal Brown flagged it to our attention this morning. Key points, written by Maria Broadfoot:

1. Microbes encapsulated in seed coatings are a key focus of the big seed/chemical companies, as they look toward a proprietary product lines they can package and deliver with their seeds. More than 2,000 different variations in microbial organisms were studied on 170,000 test plots in 2014 and almost 500,000 plots in 2015. This is a massive research effort. Each year on our little 40-acre research farm, we can at most manage 300 test strips. Measuring microbial impact is much more management intensive than, say, evaluating trace elements.

2. Monsanto and Novozymnes are collaborating on a research project called the BioAg Alliance. They intend to extend the current $2.9 billion market for agricultural biologicals. The BioAg Alliance link should take you to a video explaining the objectives of this teamwork. The map below, from the BioAg Alliance, shows where the 2015 microbial tests were located.

2015 microbial research sites of the BioAg Alliance