The Phytobiomes Alliance is an international, nonprofit consortium of academic institutions, large and small companies, and governmental agencies. Established in 2016, the Alliance coordinates public-private research projects on phytobiomes.
Colorado State University is among the nation’s leading research universities. Research in the College of Agricultural Sciences focuses on tackling today’s agricultural challenges, such as food security, resource stewardship, and water availability. “The Alliance promotes the science of phytobiomes for the benefit of plant, animal and human health through an industry-academia partnership,” says Ajay Menon, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “The College’s engagement with the Alliance allows us to share our expertise, developed through the assembly of great scientists at CSU, for the benefit of humanity.”
“Phytobiome” is a term coined in 2013 by Jan Leach, University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University. It relates to the whole system in which a plant grows. It includes the plant itself, all micro- and macro-organisms living in, on, or around the plant – such as microbes, animals and other plants – and the environment, including soil, air, water and climate.
“The industry-academic partnerships forged among members of the Phytobiomes Alliance will extend the capacity of our faculty to perform the systems level research that is needed to solve global challenges facing agriculture,” says Jan Leach.
Representatives of Phytobiomes Alliance sponsors serve on the Coordinating Committee. This committee identifies research, resource and technology gaps, establishes priorities, and develops strategic plans to achieve Alliance goals.
“CSU brings into the Alliance a broad range of expertise on multiple phytobiome components, from plant and microbial genomics, microbiomes and plant-microbe interactions, to precision agriculture and weather modeling” says Kellye Eversole, the Phytobiomes Alliance executive director. “A direct partnership between the Alliance and CSU will enhance our ability to define phytobiomes-based research priorities to address tomorrow’s agricultural challenges.”
Over the next decades, the United Nations predicts that the world population will grow by 83 million every year, to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100. Producing enough food for this growing population – in a sustainable way, while preserving biodiversity and natural resources – requires a major paradigm shift in agricultural production of food, feed and fiber. By establishing a foundation of knowledge on how phytobiome components interact and affect each other, the Phytobiomes Alliance aims at addressing these challenges.
By 2050, the Alliance envisions that all farmers, ranchers, growers and foresters will have at their disposal predictive and prescriptive tools to choose the best combination of crops, management practices and inputs for a specific field in a given year.