Start-Ups That Focus on Microbes in the Soil Garner Attention

Geoffrey Mohan reported in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times that, “Right under our feet.

That’s where David Perry believes the next agricultural revolution will come from – the millions of unseen microbes in soil that play a crucial but complicated role in the well-being of plants.

“Perry believes that he can repackage beneficial bacteria and fungi as something akin to human probiotics and deliver them to plants to alter their microbiome in ways that will boost growth, increase resistance to drought, disease and pests, and reduce farmers’ reliance on fertilizers and pesticides.”

Mr. Mohan indicated that, “Like Perry’s Cambridge, Mass.-based Indigo, a slew of other start-ups and all of the top international agro-industrial companies – BASF, Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, Arysta LifeScience — are rushing into a market that analysts believe could more than double in value, to $4.5 billion, by 2019.

That shift has created a buyout market for California start-ups.S

“BayerCropScience paid $425 million for AgraQuest of Davis, Calif., in 2012, largely for its enormous collection of bacterial strains. In 2013, Monsanto acquired key assets of Agradis and Synthetic Genomics, two related La Jolla-based companies that own large microbial libraries as well as patented genome analysis techniques. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.”

The L.A. Times article added that, “Surendra Dara, a University of California Cooperative Extension entomologist who has been seeking biological alternatives to chemical fumigants used on soil, said he has seen mixed results from experiments with several microbial treatments already on the market.

“The microbes not only successfully out-competed others that are harmful to the plant, they also boosted plant growth, he said.

“‘Unfortunately, a lot of growers don’t have faith in these products,’ he said. ‘A lot of scientists are getting into this area because there is some promise.'”

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