Monthly Archives: May 2016

Will microbes save agriculture?

Will microbes save agriculture?

Here’s a thought provoking article. Will Microbes save agriculture? by Geoffrey Mohan.

Mohan is correct when he talks about the future of agriculture and the use of biofertilizers and other beneficial microbials. Regular readers of this blog will remember this article about the agricultural microbials market exploding in size. In fact the microbials for agricultural market is expected to reach 4.45 Billion USD by 2019.

Ok – here’s  the article on Can Microbes save Agriculture? The authors contact information is below.

Right under our feet.

That’s where David Perry believes the next agricultural revolution will come from – the millions of unseen microbes in soil that play a crucial but complicated role in the well-being of plants.

Perry believes that he can repackage beneficial bacteria and fungi as something akin to human probiotics and deliver them to plants to alter their microbiome in ways that will boost growth, increase resistance to drought, disease and pests, and reduce farmers’ reliance on fertilizers and pesticides.

Like Perry’s Cambridge, Mass.-based Indigo, a slew of other start-ups and all of the top international agro-industrial companies – BASF, Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, Syngenta, Arysta LifeScience — are rushing into a market that analysts believe could more than double in value, to $4.5 billion, by 2019.

That shift has created a buyout market for California start-ups.

BayerCropScience paid $425 million for AgraQuest of Davis, Calif., in 2012, largely for its enormous collection of bacterial strains. In 2013, Monsanto acquired key assets of Agradis and Synthetic Genomics, two related La Jolla-based companies that own large microbial libraries as well as patented genome analysis techniques. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

DuPont bought Taxon Biosciences Inc. of Tiburon, Calif., for an undisclosed amount last year.

Big Bio and Big Ag aren’t more than a degree removed from Indigo, either. Astrazeneca, Nestle Health Sciences and Bayer CropScience formed a strategic partnership last May with Flagship Ventures, the MIT-rooted fund whose in-house incubator, VentureLabs, will microbes save agriculturebirthed Indigo as Symbiota in 2014 and reflagged it as Indigo in February.

Indigo will offer two commercial products this year, said Perry, who came aboard as chief executive last year. The company’s laboratory and field tests of a microbe-based seed coating showed a 10% increase in yield for several crops, including corn, soy, wheat, cotton, sorghum, canola, chickpeas, tomatoes and  strawberries,  Perry said.

“If we do that well, we make healthier plants, and healthier plants have a greater yield and need fewer chemicals and fertilizers and water to produce that yield,” said Perry, a serial entrepreneur who previously launched several companies in California (including one that suffered a spectacular implosion during the dot-com bust).

University of Arizona microbiologist Betsy Arnold was wooed to work on Indigo’s science team by MIT bioengineer and inventor Geoffrey Von Maltzahn, a principal in Flagship Venture Labs.

Fresh out of Duke University with an undergraduate degree in biology, Arnold was collecting leaf samples at the Smithsonian’s Barro Colorado nature preserve in Panama to see what was eating them and what was causing disease.

In a petri dish held up to the light, the leaves looked like a stained-glass window. Arnold thought maybe she was just a sloppy microbiologist, but soon realized that she had stumbled into leaves packed with biological hitchhikers, or endophytes, colonizing leaf tissues.

“It blew my little mind,” said Arnold, who soon changed her focus. She now runs a microbiology lab at the university that collects and studies this type of fungi.

She said she “played a little hard to get” when MIT’s Von Maltzahn came calling.  “I’m really happy with the academic lifestyle and I didn’t feel the need necessarily to interact with industry,” she said.

Arnold soon was “intrigued” by Von Maltzah’s approach, which narrows down from the millions of microbes found in soil to just the ones that have migrated into plant tissue — like the ones she found in the leaves in Panama.

Those should be the microbes the plant has “selected” as most beneficial, Indigo’s science team theorizes.

“I am really hopeful, and that doesn’t come with my experience with outside parties,” Arnold said. “That comes from my experience working with plants and microbes and recognizing the potential for what’s here.”

Scientists believe that so-called agricultural microbials offer enormous promise, though not without equally big challenges.

Evolution may be the biggest hurdle. With vast populations and fast generation times, microbes have the upper hand, warned Joel Sachs, a UC Riverside microbiologist who has studied rhizobia bacteria and pea plants.

“If you think about an evolutionary battle between a plant and bacteria, bacteria are going to win every time,”  Sachs said. “There’s very little evidence, when you actually do experiments, that there’s been anything that’s really helpful” he added.

Surendra Dara, a University of California Cooperative Extension entomologist who has been seeking biological alternatives to chemical fumigants used on soil, said he has seen mixed results from experiments with several microbial treatments already on the market.

The microbes not only successfully out-competed others that are harmful to the plant, they also boosted plant growth, he said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of growers don’t have faith in these products,” he said. “A lot of scientists are getting into this area because there is some promise.”

Scientists have known since the 19th century that microbes could be beneficial to plants, not just causes of disease. They found that rhizobia bacteria, which form nodules on the roots of legumes such as beans and clover, helped convert nitrogen into a more usable form for plants in exchange for feeding off the plant’s sugars. That helped explain why crop rotation had helped keep fields fertile for centuries.

But microbes largely were left behind amid the rise of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Those ushered in the biggest sustained expansion in food supply in human history, but left a legacy of environmental damage, including nitrates in water and toxic traces in food.

The industry has since turned back toward the soil, combing the combined plant-microbe “hologenome” for the key to fighting pests and disease. Snippets of that DNA now are routinely spliced into a plant’s genome. A gene in Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil bacterium that produces a protein lethal to several species of corn borer, has been added to corn.

But genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have run up against suspicious consumers and food health advocates, who fear that they will introduce strains that could later prove dangerous while giving corporations a monopoly over seeds. Pitched battles over labeling such foods have been waged in several states and in Congress.

Many farmers now find themselves in an “uncomfortable position” of choosing between chemicals and GMO crops to boost yields any further, said Perry, who grew up on a farm in Tulsa, Okla.

“For the first time, farmers are sort of being vilified for their choices in how they grow their crops,” Perry said.

Sometime this year, Perry hopes to offer them an alternative that came from right below their feet.

Follow me: @LATgeoffmohan

Can Microbes save agriculture? Its well known that overuse of traditional fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc have caused a problem for agriculture. So can microbes save agriculture is the question posed in this excellent article.

In fact, the idea that microbes save agriculture, is complex enough that more articles should be done on  this subject matter.

Microbes save agriculture.

Trichoderma Harzianum Benefits

Trichoderma Harzianum Benefits

Trichoderma Harzianum

Trichoderma harzianum are microscopic fungi found in all soils. They are particularly useful microorganisms and are added to soils in the form of biofertilizers. There are a number of Trichoderma harzianumdifferent Trichoderma species, including Trichoderma Harzianum.

Using biofertilizers enhances soils and increases their productivity. Biofertilizers are especially useful in overworked, over fertilized, or worn out soils.


Trichoderma are known to provide plants with a number of benefits, including:

  • Biocontrol
  • Directly improves root growth
  • Improves plant development
  • Increases plant tolerance against abiotic stresses such as:
    1. Drought
    2. High Salinity
    3. Soils with low fertility
  • Improves overall crop production

There are a number of reasons for these benefits. Trichoderma harzianum is known to colonize the roots of plants and provide plant growth promotion. In fact,

“some strains establish robust and long lasting colonization of root surfaces penetrating into the epidermis. This colonization by T. harzianum frequently enhances root growth development, crop productivity and resistance to abiotic stresses through enhancement of mineral absorption.”Margaret W. Mwangi ; Ethel O. Monda; Sheila A. Okoth; Joyce M. Jefwa

It’s no wonder that commercial preparations of Trichoderma harzianum are becoming more popular. In fact, market research shows that the biofertilizer and agricultural microbials business is exploding.

Commercial Products Containing Trichoderma

There are a number of commercial products containing Trichoderma. Custom Biologicals manufactures Custom GP, a biological soil amendment. Custom GP is a highly concentrated liquid product containing 4 species of Trichoderma. This powerful biofertilizer can be purchased in our store.

Custom GP comes in two formulations; liquid concentrate and in a tablet. Both formulation include the four species of Trichoderma and will improve the soil conditions and microbial populations of all soils.

The liquid concentrated form of Custom GP is OMRI certified as an organic imput.

Biota Max™ also contains Trichoderma species. Biota Max™ is a unique soil probiotic that contains both beneficial soil Trichoderma and beneficial soil bacteria.

Custom Biologicals manufactures and distributes a wide variety of biological products for use in agriculture as well as a number of industries. Contact Custom at (561) 797-3008 or via email at

Golf Course Maintenance Products

Golf Course Maintenance Products

Custom Biologicals manufactures environmentally friendly, biological products for use on golf courses. As golf course

Golf Course Maintenance Products

Environmentally friendly golf course products for Custom Biologicals.

superintendents become more environmentally aware, the use of biological products has dramatically increased. Biological products reduce the amount of traditional fertilizer usage, decrease over water usage, and improve water quality.

Sustainability will be the buzz word at golf course for the next 100 years. Biofertilizers, soil probiotics, and soil amendments can be a major component of any golf course sustainability program.

Here are the environmentally friendly golf course maintenance products of Custom Biologicals.

Golf Course Maintenance Products

Biota Green™ – Biota Green is our unique biological product for golf course greens. Biota Green contains both beneficial bacteria and beneficial Trichoderma fungi. Biota Green is a dissolvable tablet containing billions of these beneficial soil microorganisms that will decrease traditional fertilizer usage and water consumption.

Each Biota Green tablet will treat 1/4 acre (1/10 hectare) of golf course greens.

Custom B5 – a liquid concentrated product containing 5 species of beneficial soil bacteria. Beneficial soil bacteria have a wide variety of positive effects on plants and plant roots.

Custom GP – a liquid, concentrated product containing 4 species of beneficial soil fungi of the genus Trichoderma. Custom B5 and Custom GP are highly concentrated products with 50mL the standard dosage for 2.5 acres of golf course fairways.

Custom GP and Custom B5 are often used in combination.

Water Quality Products

Pond Fizzytabs – This product is designed to reduce algae and odors in ponds. If your course is having odor or algae problems, contact Custom Biologicals.

Wastewater Products

These products are deigned to reduce the odors, and FOG’s (Fats, Oils and Grease) at wastewater treatment facilities and wastewater treatment package plants. Custom Biologicals has years of experience treating wastewater and sewage issues.

Contact Custom Biologicals at (561) 797-3008 or via email at for more information about environmentally friendly golf course maintenance products.



3 Common Soil Problems and Their Solutions

3 Common Soil Problems and Their Solutions

You cannot plant and grow lovely garden flowers or vegetables if you do not maintain the soil in your garden in perfect condition. Improving the soils is essential for increasing your garden’s productivity, but the different problems require different amendments. Here are some of the most common soil problems and the best ways to deal with them:


Not Enough Organic Matter

If your garden lacks soil life, it probably suffers from poor water drainage and the plants Soil Problemsare remissive. The solution of this issue is to spread compost that reaches 3-inches deep in the soil and forms an equally thick layer over the ground. Soil germs will also truly benefit from cover crops, crop rotation and conservation tillage. An excellent idea is to buy some amendments containing beneficial bacteria and thus ensure that your soil will be provided with everything it needs to be healthy and productive.


Too Dry/Wet Soil

If your garden beds dry out, because they drain too fast, compost can again be a great solution to the problem. It will really amend the soil, adding nutrients and improving its capacity to retain water. Be careful to use only mature compost, otherwise your plants may be deprived of supplements. You can also prevent water evaporation by mulching the soil around the planted crops.

Enhance soil drainage and fight excessive dampness by adding some extra space between 3 Common Soil Problems and Their Solutions 1the particles of the earth. To achieve this, you can incorporate sand or gravel in the soil. Such amendments, however, might also require additional organic matter that will bring more nutrients to your garden. Be careful and do not add sand to clay soils, because this will turn the soil. Gardening specialists recommend raised beds in such a situation as they help the planted areas drain quicker. Avoid planting your greenery in areas that are too close to natural water pathways or it will be very hard for you to take care of the plants.


Too High/Low PH Levels

Alkaline soils can be amended with iron sulfate or elemental sulfur. If you choose to use sulfur, you should apply it to the garden soil about a year prior to planting the crops as its reaction is slow. If the pH level of your soil is generally high, check it yearly and add amendments whenever needed. Of course, you can simply accept the fact that your garden has alkaline soil and grow plants that are suitable for such conditions such as spinach, asparagus, lettuce and cabbage, for instance.

3 Common Soil Problems and Their Solutions 3Many gardeners’ favorite amendment for acidic soils is lime. Apply the lime depending on the soil’s type and pH to avoid possible negative effects on your greenery, caused by over application. For more organic gardening, you can treat the soil with wood ash, but you should apply the ash very carefully as well. An excessive amount can increase the level of potassium in the soil, which will suspend your plants from soaking other kinds of nutrients. Some of the crops that tolerate soils with lower pH are potatoes, radishes, apples and raspberries, so you can consider growing such in your garden, instead of constantly trying to reduce the soil’s acidity.

The more you take care of your garden, the healthier and the richer it will become. Yet, sometimes too much chemicals can have a negative impact on your soil or produce. Trying to go more eco-friendly is never a mistake and nowadays there are plenty of organic amendments that you can use to boost your garden. The biological soil amendments by Living Soils are an excellent way to stimulate your soil with fertilizers which contain plenty of beneficial microorganisms.