Can Plant Fungus Increase Crop Yields?

farming photo

Gut bacteria is a key to optimal health because it’s so closely linked to immune health. And though it’s responsible for digestion, synthesizing vitamins and nutrients, and even important to brain health, it’s largely a mystery. Now researchers have found that plant fungus may be equally crucial to soil health and as a result, it may have a large stake in the future of farming.

A plant’s photosynthetic abilities are largely tied to an ancient microbe known as chloroplast that plants depend on, according to Gastropod and reported on Mother Jones. And while we can take a snapshot of the bacterial and plant fungus makeup we don’t know the duties that each species performs. But even still, large companies are beginning to see this as a financial windfall.

According to Mother Jones:

When it comes to the human microbiome, processed food giants have started adding probiotics and prebiotics to everything from frozen yogurt to coconut water. In the field, scientists, small biotech companies, and agricultural behemoths such as Monsanto are all racing to develop probiotics for plants: learning from bacteria and fungi to develop supplements that can help crops grow better, using less fertilizer and pesticide, even in challenging environmental conditions.

One fungus has been found to be particularly important. Mycorrhizal fungi supports 80 percent of plants on Earth. British researcher Ian Sanders thinks he can increase harvests by honing in on mycorrhizal fungi and figuring out how to help it perform even better. Other companies are looking to adapt fungi that can protect plants against cold, drought, and floods in the hopes that microbes can help feed the world.

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Image: Kim Carpenter