16 Dec 2017

Can microbes help us grow more food?

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 16 December 2017

Naturally occurring microbes living on plants can be used to boost the yield, nutrition and even taste of corn, soybeans, rice and tomatoes. This Way Up visits a biotech startup manipulating microbes in Missouri.

Microbes are all around us, and we're only just beginning to understand their role in everything from autism and hunger, to cancer, our climate and agriculture.

NewLeaf Symbiotics is based in St. Louis, Missouri - a city which has become like a Silicon Valley for ag-biotech startups.

It's exploring how naturally occurring microbes living on plants can help boost yields, nutrition and even the taste of some crops.

Using a combination of citizen science and genetic sequencing, NewLeaf is identifying which microbes are the most beneficial for crops like corn, soybeans, rice and tomatoes.

Once a useful species of microbe has been classified, the next challenge is to grow them up in the lab and then apply them to plants in the field. 

With Janne Kerovuo, Natalie Breakfield, and Patrick Vogan of NewLeaf Symbiotics.

Methylotrophs on soybean leaf

Methylotrophs on soybean leaf Photo: (Supplied)