Berkeley Lab

Food and Fuel Production

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Ensuring the sustainability of ecosystems while maintaining productivity is a grand challenge that microbes are central to.

An accelerating population of more than 7 billion is severely stressing the Earth’s ability to provide food and energy. As a result, we are faced with producing more with less in ways that reduce our negative impact on climate, environmental quality and health.

We believe that fundamental knowledge of how microbes interact with their environment can lead to solutions to our growing food and fuel needs. Under M2B our initial research is targeting microbes with the ability to enhance nutrient supply to plants. Phosphorus (P) is a critical plant nutrient for which the US will increasingly be reliant on foreign reserves to meet the growing demand of our fuel and food production. Microorganisms within soil and soil metazoans have adapted numerous strategies for accessing the >99% of P in soils that is not available for plant uptake. By developing a fundamental understanding of these strategies and their regulation in the environment we plan to design, build and test new plant-microbial partnerships to sustainably supply P for nutrition of an important bioenergy feedstock cultivated on marginal lands.