Soil Microbiomes Can Handle Monsanto Adding A Fungi-Based Inoculant To All Its U.S. Corn Seeds, Right?

On Monday, Monsanto unveiled a new product. This is the first big development to come of Monsanto’s partnership with the Danish company Novozymes.

They’ve created the corn inoculant Acceleron® B-300 SAT. And it’s really perfect that the unveiling came on World Soil Day.

The industry giants say that they derived this product from fungi naturally found in the soil. They say it will help fertilizer work more efficiently and producing less CO2. They say it is expected to promote the growth of the corn plants. They say it will be great for the environment.

You’ll have to excuse my skepticism, but Monsanto isn’t my favorite corporation ever.

At any rate, the corn seeds coated with growth-promoting fungi derivative will be sewn into U.S. soil in the 2017 growing season.  In just months, all of Monsanto’s corn seeds will probably come coated with this product, according to the press release.

Acceleron® B-300 SAT is an improved formulation of the JumpStart® seed inoculant which uses Penicillium bilaiaeField trials indicate that yield will increase by about two percent, according to Monsanto. Monsanto has promised higher yields before, with GMOs. Yet just this year, an extensive examination by The New York Times indicated that GMOs have not actually managed to accelerate increases in crop yields. Of course, this time could be different.

What? You have your doubts?

Yeah. Me too.

“We believe it could be applied to more than 90M acres by 2025 and become one of the biggest biological products,” a Novozymes executive said, according to Seeking Alpha.

Ninety. Million. Acres.

Modern Farmer indicated that Monsanto might head in this direction back in 2014, but the coated seeds are now nearly planted. Here’s what Modern Farmer had to say about the plans between Novozymes and Monsanto just two years ago:

“Scientists have just begun to understand the interworkings of microbes in our own body, and soil does a better job hiding all its microscopic dwellers according to the A.A.M. Microbiologists advocate a complete census of all the fungi, bacteria, insects, viruses and their interactions around a single crop. It’s hard to imagine the BioAg Alliance undertaking the project when they need to be making market-ready products.”

K. McDonald voiced concerns at the time in the Big Picture Agriculture blog:

“Useful microbes already exist in healthy soils and there are methods which encourage them to thrive. Today’s industrial agriculture system is not one of them. It would make so much more sense to work with Nature’s wisdom, rather than destroy it and then try to rebuild it.”

You know, according to Ohio State, the corn-belt from Kansas to Oklahoma is “probably the best agricultural land in the world,” but they also say “no biome is more threatened than grassland.” Soon, the corn belt will be “inoculated” with Monsanto’s newest fungal-based growth-accelerator. With all my heart, I hope that this new product heals the delicate microbiome of the nation’s overworked former prairies instead of irreparably harming it.

Just this year, Vanessa Bailey, a microbiologist at Pacific Northwest National Labs, explained that microbial populations of the soil are actually hyper-local and very dependent on just the right balance, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Bailey said:

“Microbes behave in surprising ways, and we need a better understanding of how they colonize soil and of all of the different ecological processes that these microbes carry out. We really have no idea.”

“80 percent of the soil microbes in Central Park are still undescribed. There’s a lot of diversity to reckon with,” Noah Fierer, a microbiologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, explained.

Even the best soil experts who care more about soil than sales still know so little about soil microbiomes. Are we really ready to just start universally adding one fungi into 90 million acres of our nation’s soil? For real?!  While it seems possible that this derivative of natural fungi could end up being just great, I just can’t help but wonder if Monsanto is really the company to trust as farmers dive into this science that is clearly still in its infancy.

Do we really trust Monsanto to further alter the soil’s microscopic ecosystem more than they already have? Really?

Oh yeah, and one more thing. Acceleron® B-300 SAT’s Safety Data Sheet is available online. Just make sure that if you end up handling it, you keep it away from waterways.  Cool?


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