Plant roots are assessed for mycorrhiza, a symbiosis between fungi and roots of the plant.  Photo by Madelline Romero/CIAT

As Asian agriculture increasingly intensifies to satisfy food and income demands of a growing population, it meets with the reality of soil degradation. Agricultural activities is one of the leading causes of soil degradation in the region, which in most countries, is already causing a decline of average crop yields primarily due to loss of nutrients in the soil. And while soil nutrient mining is a real concern, what compounds the challenge is a general lack of awareness, by both smallholder farmers and big agriculture companies, of the state of the soil’s health and quality.

The Common Microbial Biotechnology Platform (CMBP) of the Vietnam Agricultural Genetics Institute (AGI), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the French Center for Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), addresses this by assessing indicators – measurements – of the soil’s quality, health and sustainability.

As well as soil analyses, the CMBP performs other types of agro-ecological analyses to help respond to the myriad challenges and aspects of sustainable agriculture.

“Sustainable farming requires efforts to better manage soil health, plant nutrition, cropping systems, and agro-ecologies,” says Dindo Campilan, CIAT Regional Director for Asia. “To help achieve this, CMBP seeks to harness microbial biotechnology knowledge, methods and products, especially, those tailored-fit for smallholder producers.”

Initial steps towards characterization of microbial communities. Photo by Madelline Romero/CIAT

Analyses of the soil, particularly the microbes present in it, reveal a lot about soil health, which refers to the capacity of the soil to function as a living, dynamic component of agro-ecosystems that sustain plant and animals, and ultimately, human livelihoods.

Soil functionality depends on soil biodiversity. Healthy soil regulates decomposition, provides nutrients for plants, regulates water flow and quality, suppresses pathogens, provides pharmaceuticals, and supports above-ground biodiversity.

The CMBP studies soil biodiversity: how soil microorganisms interact with each other, with the physical and chemical components of soils, with vegetation, with the cropping system, and how these interactions impact the ecosystem in which they thrive.

Understanding how soil microbes behave in certain conditions and interactions would allow farmers to gain the most benefits from microorganisms.

“Making use of the benefits offered by microorganisms to the soil will decrease dependence on mineral fertilizers and pesticides,” says Didier Lesueur, soil microbiology scientist at CIAT, “resulting in an efficient and environmentally sustainable agriculture system.”

Asia records the highest consumption of mineral fertilizer among all regions.

 

 The CMBP welcomes researchers interested in the study of microbial biotechnology. Photo by Madelline Romero/CIAT 

Click here For more information about the microbial biotechnology platform

As well as with farmers wanting to make the most of the benefits offered by soil microorganisms, the CMBP works with fertilizer manufacturers and other agro-dealers interested in developing new microbial inoculants effective for plant growth. It also works with researchers interested in the study of microbial biotechnology.

“The benefits of microbiology in agriculture are extremely underutilized and underexplored in Vietnam and in the Asia region,” says Prof. Le Huy Ham, Chairman of Science Council at AGI. “The CMBP corrects this by promoting adoption of microbial biotechnology methods and technologies through capacity building of researchers in the region. It’s a common platform because it welcomes novel ideas from all partner institutions and organizations working towards a common objective of sustainable agriculture.”

The Common Microbial Biotechnology Platform was inaugurated on February 1st 2018 in the presence of members of Vietnam’s research community including the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, the French Center for Agricultural Research for Development, and CGIAR.

For more information, please get in touch with the CMBP through Dr. Didier Lesueur (d.lesueur@cgiar.org) or Dr. Khuat Huu Trung (khuathuutrung@yahoo.com) at 2/F Agricultural Genetics Institute (AGI) Bldg., Km 2 Pham Van Dong St., Tu Liem, Hanoi.

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