Much as in humans, a healthy microbiome can help ensure that plants are resistant to pathogens. In a study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers used experimental evolution to identify the core microbiome of commercial tomatoes by searching for microbial communities that could defend against random microbes landing on the plants. The findings indicate that the plant microbiome could be manipulated with probiotics to create crops that require less fertilizer and pesticides while still producing robust yields.
During the experiments, four successive generations of plants were sprayed with the microbiomes of the previous generation. The microbial community of each tomato type was nurtured through generations so it could adapt to each strain, eliminate maladapted microbes, and help well-adapted ones to grow. By the fourth generation, the original microbial taxa accounted for only 25%, with the remaining 75% going extinct.
“That is really interesting in itself because it suggests that a lot of the microbes out there aren’t well-adapted, they are kind of there by chance,” explained study leader Britt Koskella, in a press release. “The wind blew them there, rain splashed them there, but they are not thriving, they are likely not adapted to that particular environment.”
When a mixture of microbes—50% taken from the partially adapted microbiome of the first generation and 50% from the fourth generation—was sprayed on the tomato plants, the fourth-generation microbes prevailed, indicating they were better adapted to the tomato.
Koskella finds the results encouraging. “We already know that, in theory, you can select for microbes that perform particular functions: increased yield, drought tolerance or disease resistance, for example,” she said. “We are showing here that you can, in principle, create a microbial community that has the function you are interested in, but also is uninvadable, because it is really well-adapted to that plant.”
The researchers are conducting additional experiments to discover if the selected microbiome actually improves plant health, resilience, and productivity, and if the integration of probiotic microbes can successfully deliver lasting crop benefits.
France-based Carbios is developing the first biological technology to transform the end-of-life of plastics, says Martin Stephan, deputy CEO of Carbios.
British scientists have gained new insights into the compound in plants that plays a vital role in the natural process through which plants grow.
The food business is “brutal,” says Nancy Preston, a U.S. Army veteran who decided in Iraq that she wanted to work in that business. After learning more about the barriers to entry including the incredible financial risk, little access to capital, and a high likelihood of failure, Preston and her husband decided that instead of opening their own café or food truck, they’d focus on helping simplify the process for other food entrepreneurs.
Air Protein has developed a method of making meat analogues out of carbon dioxide. Based on NASA ideas about how to grow food on board long journey spacecraft, Air Protein says its technology can create protein in a matter of hours and without the use of any arable land.
A look at two of the MIT Solve Challenge winners and how they are working to build more sustainable food systems.
The column explains the four types of reusable food packaging and the nuances of their environmental impacts as compared with single-use packaging.
Sophisticated technologies coupled with environmental advantages are making aquaculture an increasingly viable approach to feeding a global population hungry for seafood.
A look at how Kellogg’s Eighteen94 Capital venture capital arm approaches investing in entrepreneurial companies.
Geltor has announced the closing of a $91.3 million Series B financing that will fuel the global expansion of its ingredients-as-a-service platform.
Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch plant-based seafood, has announced the appointment of Christine Mei as CEO.
Joywell Foods, a food technology company developing a sweet protein portfolio, has announced the closing of a $6.9 million Series A financing round.
Lee Kum Kee, an Asian sauce provider, has announced that its Xinhui Production Base was awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification.