Seed World

Probiotics for Plants?

Comparison of rice plants grown without the endophyte (E-) and with the endophyte (E+)

Recent research (and commercials) say probiotic products are good for our health, with benefits ranging from improved digestion to managing allergies and colds. Just as humans can benefit from the good bacteria of probiotics, plants can benefit from certain microbes. And that benefit is also good for the environment, scientists at the University of Washington say. They are collaborating with an agricultural company to take advantage of these bacteria on a large scale, which could include seed coating or spraying.
In plants, beneficial bacteria and fungi are endophytes. Scientists have known for decades that plants like legumes (peas, beans, and lentils) have beneficial bacteria in nodules attached to their roots. These bacteria “fix” vital nitrogen, turning it into a form the plant can easily use. However, researchers have recently found some nitrogen-fixing bacteria actually live inside plant tissue — in the leaves, stems, and roots — with impressive results.
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