Over the course of the past decade or so, the notion that our internal microbial ecosystem has an enormous impact on our overall health has become one of the most widely popularized and reported-upon fields of biological research. Cultural awareness about the potential dangers of overusing sanitizing products and/or antibiotics is at an all-time high, and probiotic foods and beverages are all the rage.
A lesser-known fact about microbial ecosystems could soon become equally as famous. As biotech startup Indigo is hoping to capitalize on, microbial ecosystems affect the heath of plant life just as much as they influence the health of humans and animals.
By studying this process and carefully manipulating the microbiomes of agricultural cash crops, Indigo hopes to revolutionize production while also creating a greener Earth for tomorrow.
After all, one of the most important functions that the microbiomes of plants perform is offering protection against the insect, weed, and fungal infections that plague agriculture. Because the naturally occurring microbiome of most plants does not perform this task with the efficiency needed for optimal production, most farmers turn to pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides in order to boost their harvest.
Though effective, this current methodology is also problematic. It leads to the pollution of streams and rivers due to runoff, and some research suggests it could even be harmful to the very farmers working those crops. Additionally, the powerful chemicals used to replicate the function of protective microbiomes often kill many of the most beneficial microbes.
By using DNA sequencing to predict the exact microbial makeup needed to protect plants and maximize production, Indigo aspires to a lofty goal: replacing pesticides with probiotics!