Molly Cadle-Davidson
Molly Cadle-Davidson Chief Science Officer, ABM

Molly Cadle-Davidson first started with ABM as a consultant in 2013, but it wasn’t long before she was working full time as assistant chief scientific officer in January 2014. Now as chief science officer, she works to enhance ABM genomics strategies and to foster next-generation product development. Cadle-Davidson is an expert in the field of genetics and is well versed in the application of genomics and next-generation sequencing techniques for trait-based research and development. Prior to joining ABM, she was involved in government work with SRC, Inc. and aided other government-funded programs with the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Defense and Justice. While at SRC, Inc., her work resulted in one trade secret, two patents pending and one patent application currently being prepared for the company. Cadle-Davidson holds a Bachelor of Science in genetics from the University of California, as well as a Master of Science in plant pathology from Washington State University and a doctorate in plant breeding and genetics from Cornell University.

Many talk about the benefits of biologicals being more environmentally friendly and leading to healthier, strong plants. But what specifically is at work to create these so-called environmental and plant health benefits?

When using the right biological, farmers will experience both above-ground and below-ground benefits. We’ll start below ground with the roots and work our way up.

When applied in the furrow or on the seed, biologicals promote root growth by creating synergies with the plant, with beneficial microorganisms already in the soil and by shielding the plant from soil-borne pests and pathogens of concern. This leads to increased root biomass, so those roots are digging deeper and breaking up the soil. In our research, we see root biomass increase from about 46 percent of the total plant to more than 50 percent.

Deeper roots means increased access to water and nutrients needed for the plant to grow and produce fruit or grain. It also means we are putting more organic matter back into the soil. This has a compounding effect when you do this year after year.

But farmers are still driving over the fields and making multiple passes. As such, soil compaction is a constant battle, and there’s this constant competition between the two (breaking up the soil and compacting the soil). How do we minimize this?

To minimize the number of passes a farmer needs to make over a field, we must control disease and soil borne and foliar pathogens. If you can slow, stop or prevent any of these, then you reduce the number of times you have to drive over the field to spray, which also mean using fewer chemicals.

Let’s move above ground. When the roots have more access to water and nutrients below ground, there’s more above-ground growth and an overall stronger plant stand.

By controlling disease and pathogens, you get faster plant growth and more canopy cover, which then helps to suppress weeds. When treated with our biological products, we are seeing the canopy close at least 1.5 days ahead of the control in our research, and any time you can close the canopy sooner, the better it is for weed control.

When the whole system is working as designed, we see dramatically improved soil health, plant health and environmental health. It truly is a holistic approach, and during our selection process, we consider each of these factors and are working to improve all aspects.