The Influence of the Phytobiome on Biological Performance

- Molly Cadle-Davidson

An organism’s environment is another important element scientists developing biologicals must consider.

Furthermore, because microbes have evolved with plants, the two interact in many different ways. For instance, microbes influence the phytobiome and may change the microbial makeup surrounding plant roots and leaf surfaces. Microbes can also directly signal the plant to change its gene expression, or how the plant recovers from environmental stress.

These are systems involving many genes, and because biologicals can activate or influence these large systems, they introduce another set of variables into agriculture.

We already know the biggest influence on agricultural performance is environment. Now we’re adding another biological system, which further changes that environment. Those of us creating biological products try to control environmental variability. We can’t control the weather, but we really must ensure when we put a product out there it’s not introducing more variability. We work hard to shrink that variability while still adding value in terms of yield and quality.

Fortunately, our industry is changing: it is getting better for biological seed treatments. For example, companies like ABM are providing application guidance—these products can be tank-mixed, but the time they are efficacious has limits. Also, we’re seeing more innovations in the field for biologicals application. For instance, many seed treaters now have a separate port for biological products.

We now have the science to support the benefits of biological products, end-users are experiencing enhanced performance first-hand, and companies are able to provide consistent product quality. Biologicals can do an enormous amount of good, and this sector is growing rapidly as the agriculture industry recognizes that value.