CAST Releases New Issue Paper on "Agriculture and the Microbiome"

This issue paper discusses the complexity of microbiomes, how soil microbes can help crops grow, and new technologies.

The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) released a new paper, Agriculture and the Microbiome. It is now available for download.


Agriculture is one of the keystones of human civilization, providing a reliable, stationary source of food that allowed ancient populations to grow and eventually build cities. Modern agriculture is successful today because of advances in mechanization, breeding, nutrients (e.g., fertilization), and pest and disease management, all of which enhance crop productivity and provide greater food security. Yet even with this progress, the amount of cropland per capita has declined, available farmland is being consumed by urban development at unprecedented rates, and crop yields are plateauing.

Crop yields must continue to increase and the gap between plant productivity and consumption must be bridged. Expanding the use of crop microbiomes to improve plant production is that next agricultural revolution. Science is ready to take advantage of microbial research to advance agriculture. In the 1800s, farmers could feed 26 people per acre—by the 1900s, farmers could feed 265 people per acre. By 2050, farmers will need to produce enough food to feed a world that has 9.7 billion people.

Dr. Ignazio Carbone, North Carolina State University and co-chair of this paper, said new methodologies will "allow researchers to identify a larger proportion of the microbiome and thus generate a more complete picture of who is present in a complex microbiome sample." The production of a new biological product can take time and involve many regulations. For a product to be commercially viable, these minimum criteria must be met: it must be (1) effective in the environment in which it will be used, (2) manufactured reasonably at commercial scale, (3) robust and of good/consistent quality, and (4) the company must have the legal right/authority to commercialize the product.

Cutting edge technologies make microbial data useful, but they must be effectively communicated to public audiences. "Even the evaluation of how risky or beneficial people see a technology can be tightly related to the ties that person has to others in their family, among friends, and in their broader community," says Dr. Andrew Binder, North Carolina State University and an author of the issue paper.

The issue paper, Agriculture and the Microbiome, is available to download for free on CAST's website. Registration for the free webinar can be made here. The webinar will take place at Noon Central on Tuesday, Aug. 25. Drs. Ignazio Carbone and Megan Andrews will share highlights of the publication, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with several of the paper's authors.

Task Force Authors:

Megan Andrews, Co-chair, North Carolina State University
Ignazio Carbone, Co-chair, North Carolina State University
Andrew Binder, North Carolina State University
Natalie Breakfield, NewLeaf Symbiotics
Owen Duckworth, North Carolina State University
Kirk Francis, BASF
Susanna L. Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Linda Kinkel, University of Minnesota
Jan Leach, Colorado State University
Gregory Maloney, Novozymes North America, Inc.
Kelci Miclaus, SAS Institute, Inc.
Elizabeth Shank, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Elizabeth Stulberg, Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies
Carolyn Young, Noble Research Institute
Sherryl Yu-Su, Novozymes North America, Inc.

About CAST 
The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology is an international consortium of scientific and professional societies, companies, and nonprofit organizations. Through its network of experts, CAST assembles, interprets, and communicates credible, balanced, science-based information to policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public. 
http://www.cast-science.org

Featured Product

Dynatect Automated Machine Safety Roll-Up Doors

Dynatect Automated Machine Safety Roll-Up Doors

Need to increase safety? Are you using light curtains? Is space a concern? Dynatect's Gortite® VF Automated Machine Safety Door combines safety technology, speed, and a physical barrier to isolate hazardous operations. Use of a physical barrier with safety sensors can save up to 30 square feet of manufacturing space. Using the ANSI minimum safety distance formula, the Gortite® VF Door limits the depth penetration factor and average approach speed, allowing closer location of the safeguarding device. Unlike light curtains, which can't contain process hazards, an automated machine safety door can isolate common workplace debris. This physical barrier is designed to contain process driven hazards such as weld sparks, UV flash, and light debris. Thus, the operator can maintain closer proximity to the work area improving ergonomics and productivity.