Synthetic biology can boost agricultural productivity while minimizing its environmental impact.
The soil is home to thousands of microbial species carrying out a dizzying array of functions. Plant roots interact with the soil microbiome and form symbiotic relationships with specific microbes called "Plant-Growth Promoting Rhizobacteria" or PGPR. The plants provide carbon and energy to the microbes. The microbes help feed, protect, and enhance the plants. These microbes can be used with farm crops for biofertilization and improved nutrient acquisition, plant hormone production, and disease protection.
Bioengineering Elite PGPR Strains
Synthetic biology can transform natural PGPR microbes into crop-enhancing agricultural products with elite performance. Natural PGPR microbes evolved to survive in the complex outdoor soil environment, not to boost specific crop yields over one season. They've evolved to be survivalists, while farmers want them to perform more as bodybuilders. As a result, naturally derived PGPR microbes often perform unpredictably and unreliably in farm fields. Synthetic biology can domesticate and optimize these microbes into reliable agricultural products, providing farmers with a new class of trusted tools to achieve higher crop yields and farm returns with fewer chemicals.