I've said it before and I'll say it again: microbes are everywhere, and everywhere important. As regular readers will know, I've recently become obsessed with cultivating our microbial companions to make delicious foods. But you don't have to have to constantly minding jars of kraut or jugs of mead in order for microbes to be intimately connected to producing the foods you consume.
Nicola Twilley (author of the excellent Edible Geography blog) and Cynthia Graber have a new podcast exploring all aspects of food consumption with the wonderfully punny name "Gastropod"(cast) and in a recent episode, they tackle new research into breeding fungi to improve crop yields.
They're talking specifically about mycorrhizal fungi, microbes that form intimate symbiotic relationships with plants, improving their water and nutrient uptake. Scientists and farmers have known about these bugs for years, but shockingly, they have not been actively bred to harness their full potential. In this podcast:
We meet British scientist Ian Sanders, whose career has been devoted to studying mycorrhizal fungi genetics. Sanders’ latest big idea is that, by breeding better mycorrhizal fungi, he can help plants grow more food. He’s been working with agronomist Alia Rodriguez to test this theory in the cassava fields of Colombia, and we join him to find out his astonishing, as yet unpublished, results. Can the Microbe Revolution live up to its promises, out of the lab and in the field?
Have a listen, you won't regret it! And while you're at it, if you're a fan of this blog, you should probably subscribe to the podcast as well.