Seed World

A New Class of Biorational Chemicals to be Developed through NSF Grant

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded ABM a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to research and develop formulations of a new class of biorational chemicals to be based on chemical communicants from plant symbiotic fungi.

These new products are expected to improve plant productivity throughout the growing season, resulting in better yields, enhanced root growth and resistance to a variety of stresses, such as drought. The products induce plants to use sunlight more efficiently and thereby provide greater plant biomass.

“The National Science Foundation supports small businesses with the most innovative, cutting-edge ideas that have the potential to become great commercial successes and make huge societal impacts,” says Barry Johnson, director of the NSF’s Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships. “We hope that this seed funding will spark solutions to some of the most important challenges of our time across all areas of science and technology.”

According to ABM, this project builds on the discovery that selected biorational fungal metabolites increase plant productivity and stress resistance, even when applied at very low concentrations, and affect plants long after the application.

“The biorational and microbial products sold and being developed by ABM provide unique opportunities to improve plant performance,” says Gary Harman, the grant’s principal investigator. “The enhanced plants produced by these products function, in many respects, like totally new varieties even though they contain the same genetics as plants without the treatments.

“However, they can be deployed now and without the time lag and expense required for development of genetically altered plants. There is a strong likelihood that combining advanced plant genetics with ABM’s biological and biorational products will provide even more improvements.”

The new products will augment ABM’s products based on advanced microbial agents that colonize plant roots. They will permit new applications and add versatility to the product line.