Focused Microbial Diversity and Smart Selection

- Molly Cadle-Davidson

There is more and more science supporting the role biologicals play in plant health and performance. A growing body of scientific literature shows these products have a real, measurable effect. Testament to increased consumer adoption of these types of products is the increasing involvement and resources put into developing biological products by the large multinational AgBiotech companies. These kinds of products are no longer only the purview of small companies or researchers with an interesting pot of microbes. We owe this transition to the groundwork laid by pioneers in the field, such as ABM, who have worked to educate growers about these products and discover why they work.

Two of the fundamental concepts behind biologicals that ABM works to develop are Focused Microbial Diversity and Smart Selection.

Focused Microbial Diversity is an important concept for the seed industry, because it brings an awareness of the complexity of crop production beyond simply the genetics of the seed and the inputs to the crop. As we are learning from human medical research on the microbiome and its parallels in the plant world (called the phytobiome), good microbial health is essential for plant health and the right diversity will help us continue to make the required improvements in agriculture over the coming challenging years.

Focused Microbial Diversity is the delivery of diverse microbial strain combinations that, individually, provide specific benefits to a plant and, in combination, interact synergistically with each other and the crop to give broad-spectrum advantages even in environments that may be unfavorable for a single strain. Smart Selection is a method of rolling phenotypic, genomic, chemical, and formulations data into our pipeline, enabling direct, streamlined development of novel traits and functionalities.

This is a dynamic strategy through which continual evaluation of new enabling technologies, when efficacious, expands our toolbox, thus evolving not only the concept, but also the process. We leverage Smart Selection to imbue all of our products with Focused Microbial Diversity.

Clear examples of the benefits of microbial products to growers are increased yields, drought tolerance, stand establishment and early season vigor, and better nodulation. Continuing basic microbiome/phytobiome research in both human and plant sciences is adding to the growing body of scientific literature demonstrating the very real and reproducible effects of microbes on plant performance for these types of traits.

Ag biologicals have long been the application of science, however, years ago the supporting data was scarce, leading to the view that such products were “snake oil.” With the increasing research and now decades of field performance data, biological products are solidly in the agricultural marketplace with excellent support. The time is ripe for shedding old views on these products and recognizing the solid science behind their performance.