Performance of Crop-boosting Bacteria May Depend on Delivery Method

Sorghum field
Sorghum growing in a research field on the northeast edge of Lincoln. A Nebraska team recently tested whether the method of delivering soil- and root-dwelling bacteria to sorghum could influence the growth of the cereal grain. (Photo by Craig Chandler, University Communication and Marketing)

Performance of Crop-boosting Bacteria May Depend on Delivery Method

Soil bacteria may be the microscopic building blocks to greater crop growth and higher yields — while knocking down chemical fertilizer use — but University of Nebraska–Lincoln researchers recently found that more blocks do not always build taller towers.

For more than a million years, plants have co-evolved to closely associate with the billions of bacteria that live in the soil. In this micro-scale community, soil bacteria interact and compete for plant-given nutrients, producing a complex but balanced microbiome that can benefit plant growth. Microbiologists are now capitalizing on this prehistoric relationship by providing crops with ample growth-promoting bacteria.

Despite the decades-long progress toward using soil microbes to promote plant growth, no studies in the public literature have directly compared the multiple methods for introducing live bacteria to plants. A recent Nebraska study discovered that the most effective methods for promoting growth depends on the type of bacteria. Matching method with microbe could benefit agriculture and the environment by increasing crop yields and reducing chemical fertilizer use, respectively.

“We really believe that the nature of microorganisms can do something for agriculture,” said Yen Ning Chai, a postdoctoral researcher at Nebraska and lead author of the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. “We believe that, in the long run, we can slowly replace or supplement fertilizers with the microbes.”

To read more about Chai’s study on promoting plant growth with soil bacteria, read this article on Nebraska Today.  

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