Who will feed the planet? Endofita ofof Podkhlestyvayemye the prompt growth of the population of the planet and climate changes menacing to traditional granaries scientists I look for ways to squeeze out more food of the earth. Some of them offer nonconventional approach: instead of making more hardy cultures, using selection or genetic modification, they manipulate wide ranges of the symbiotic microorganisms living on plants.
The Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies company (Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies) from Seattle brought to the market the first commercial product using for improvement of crops the microorganisms known as endofita. The company sells mix of fungi for processing of seeds of rice and corn which, allegedly, increases productivity of cultures and reduces a water consumption even in severe conditions. “It is real shift in plant ecology“, - the biologist and the founder of the Raise Rodriguez (Rusty Rodriguez) company says.
While biologists begin to understand the power and influence on a human body of trillions of microbes living in it, ecologists try to operate “allies“ of plants. Instead of looking for and introducing one gene responsible for the necessary property, researchers can use a set of the interacting genes which are previously integrated into an organism as happens to symbiotic fungi.
Selection and genetic manipulations allow to remove grades with the increased tolerance by a drought. But it is a slow way. In the USA after ten years` researches only one similar culture - corn of “DroughtGard“ in which the genes of bacteria suppressing stressful reaction are introduced is approved.
The symbiosis relations between plants and microbes, such as the bacteria collecting nitrogen living on roots bean are known for decades. However applied researches in this area are conducted rather recently.
In 1970 - x researchers understood that the fungi living in symbiosis with a grass a fescue can cause cattle diseases. Later in New Zealand found out that some herbs, in the union from endofita poisonous for animals, are steady against attacks of insects. It brought to life a niche of the market where endofita are developed and made for lawn herbs which not only push away wreckers, but also are harmless to animals.
Today some researchers apply similar approach to food crops, moving away from a tendency of their sterilization and isolation from a microcosm. As Rodriguez speaks: “Agriculture spent last century of fertilizer and pesticides to destroy the microbes living on plants. Today we try to turn it back“.
Work of Rodriguez began with accident. At the beginning of 2000 - x he studied plants which could survive at a temperature of soil of 50 degrees near hot springs in National park Yellowstone. It turned out that all of them existed in symbiosis with mushrooms. At the same time alone neither plants, nor mushrooms can live at a temperature of soil over 40 about .
Later the researcher together with colleagues found out that mushrooms can be transferred also to other plants, protecting them from oxidation and a stress. These conclusions sent command to search for the endofit optimized for the solution of the problems connected with climate changes. As a result there was a commercial mix “BioEnsure“.
During field tests during a drought in the State of Michigan use of mix allowed to increase productivity of corn for 85%. The quantity of the sprouted seeds increased by 2 - 5 times at a cold snap to 5 about . Besides, the corn demanded one third less moisture.
In similar conditions productivity of rice grew by 3 - 6%, at the same time the consumption of water was cut for 25 - 50%. Independent tests confirmed safety of the mix “BioEnsure“. It is approved by department of agriculture for use in the USA.