Plant microbiome initiative launched - News & Features

3 May 2017
Plant microbiome initiative launched

The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and Rothamsted Research launched the first UK Plant Microbiome Initiative at a workshop sponsored by the Society for Applied Microbiology last month (26 April 2017).

The initiative was initially proposed by CABI’s Dr Matthew Ryan at the hugely successful Rothamsted Open Innovation forum in January 2017. It has now gained stakeholder support to formally establish a research and innovation platform linking industry, donors and academia to improve global food security and human health through sustainable crop productivity. A new secretariat will coordinate and foster collaboration through an ‘open innovation approach’.

The inaugural workshop, hosted at Rothamsted’s research facility in Harpenden, was attended by experts from a broad range of organisations including representatives from universities, research institutions, botanic gardens, the farming industry, scientific societies, research councils and funders.

“The plant microbiome consists of the microbial communities surrounding and inside plants,” explained CABI’s Dr Matthew Ryan. “Through this initiative we want to exploit the potential of the plant microbiome and place the UK at the forefront of global research, facilitation and policy. The initiative will facilitate new collaborative projects among the partners drawing on the leading scientific expertise and cutting edge facilities required to unlock the plant microbiome’s potential.

“In the same way that knowledge of the human microbiome unlocked treatment solutions for humans, the same opportunities exist with the plant microbiome. We aim to improve plant and crop viability in order to provide benefits for both human and animal health, as well as for environmental sustainability.”

“Metagenomics and bioinformatics have given us unprecedented insight into the complex microbiomes of crop plants,” said Professor Penny Hirsch from Rothamsted Research. “Now we are eager to build alliances and apply this knowledge to sustainable food production.”