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Improving On-Seed Survival and performance of legume inoculants using genome shuffling

August 8, 2019

 

Keep on Surviving

Legumes – chickpeas, peas, lentils and soybeans to name a few – continue to gain popularity. In partnership with Genome Prairie, the OSS project is supported through the Genomic Applications Partnership Program.

Molecular biologist and project lead Chris Yost from the University of Regina specializes in inoculants. He describes his team’s on-seed survival research as “high risk and high reward. It’s well-suited as an academic-industry partnership project.”

Microbial inoculants are added to seed to promote crop yield through biostimulation and biofertilization, but they must remain viable and perform well in the field after several months of storage. This is called on-seed survival. An example includes inoculants based on Rhizobia bacteria –frequently used to promote legume yields.

The challenge is to find microbes that can deliver consistently. A partner on the OSS project is Lallemand Plant Care, a global company that develops and commercializes microbe-based technologies. Additional funding is also provided by the Western Grains Research Foundation.

Yost and his team are working to create superior rhizobial inoculant strains to both improve tolerance to drying out and subsequent on-seed survival. They are using a technique called genome shuffling, which with appropriate selection pressures, can accelerate evolutionary changes.

The team has also developed a high-throughput phenotyping approach to boost the volume of genome shuffling. The end goal of the OSS project is a better product with higher performance for soybean and pulse crop farmers.

“Ideally, farmers will have access to new technological advances in inoculant products that will increase yields and profits while promoting sustainable agricultural practices and, as a result, support a measure of environmental and economic sustainability,” says Yost.