Engineering root microbiomes for healthier crops and soils using beneficial, environmentally safe bacteria

The Green Revolution developed new crop varieties, which greatly improved food security worldwide. However, the growth of these plants relied heavily on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which have led to an overuse of synthetic fertilisers, insecticides, and herbicides with serious environmental consequences and negative effects on human health. This study investigates environmentally friendly plant-growth promoting methods to replace our current reliance on synthetic chemicals and to develop more sustainable agricultural practices to offset the damage caused by many agrochemicals. The increased use of bioinoculants, which consist of microorganisms that establish synergies with target crops and influence production and yield by enhancing plant growth, controlling disease, and providing critical mineral nutrients, is a potential solution. The microorganisms found in bioinoculants are often bacteria or fungi that reside either within external or internal plant microbiomes. However, before they can be used routinely in agriculture, these microbes must be confirmed as non-pathogenic strains that promote plant growth and survival. In this study, besides describing approaches for discovering plant-growth promoting bacteria in various environments, including phytomicrobiomes and soils, the authors also discuss methods to evaluate their safety for the environment and for human health.

Authors: Martínez-Hidalgo P, Maymon M, Pule-Meulenberg F, Hirsch AM. ; Full Source: Canadian Journal of Microbiology. 2018 Sep 18. doi: 10.1139/cjm-2018-0315. [Epub ahead of print]