The Next Green Revolution May Rely on Microbes

"Ian Sanders wants to feed the world. A soft-spoken Brit, Sanders studies fungus genetics in a lab at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. But fear not, he’s not on a mad-scientist quest to get the world to eat protein pastes made from ground-up fungi. Still, he believes—he’s sure—that these microbes will be critical to meeting the world’s future food needs.

"Sanders’s eyes widen with delight and almost childlike glee when he talks about a microscopic life form called mycorrhizal fungus, his chosen lifetime research subject. Mycorrhizal fungi live in a tightly wound, mutually beneficial embrace with most plants on the planet. Years of dedication have made Sanders into one of the world’s foremost experts on the genetics of the microbe, and he recently was part of a team that sequenced the first mycorrhizal fungi genome."

Mycorrhizal fungi colonize the tip of a root, seen here under magnification.

A fascinating article about current research and growing interest in restoring fungi to soils damaged by plowing and use of chemicals. They finish on a note of encouragement and hope to be able to raise enough food for the growing population. 

"The scientists believe they’re on their way to achieving their goal of helping farmers grow more food, sustainably. Says Sanders, “We really have to be working extremely hard now to produce the technology that’s going to be used in 10, 15, 20 years’ time. Even if we have something that’s good now, we don’t stop. We have to go for something that’s much better.”

Tags: Mycorrhizal, fungi, research

Views: 20

Replies to This Discussion

Interesting article.  Good to know caring scientists are working to feed the world.  Just hope the profit only companies don't get control of it.

It's amazing the symbiotic relationships we're discovering that plants have with fungi and other organisms.

I can't help but relate it to my own garden.  This article reminded me once again that no-till gardening looks like the best way to go.  I've been disrupting the fungal colonies with my soil modifications, and probably causing other unknown negatives.  I'm thinking from now on, I should just keep good amounts of organic matter on top and let nature do the work.

Joan, thanks for posting this interesting article on fungi.   It's information like this that guides my gardening philosophy.  It falls under the "feed the soil, which feeds the plants."  Then the plants feed us.

 

I quit buying mycorrhizal inoculants.   I don't know if they help or not.  I figure at this point, growing without chemicals for 2 years and the place having been abandoned the year before, the soil is recovering and has its own microbiological ecosystem going.  Adding plant-based mulches must help too.

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