Microbiology in agriculture
Opportunities in microbiology research are the gateway to sustaining and improving agriculture and food production, quality, and safety. Multidisciplinary research must be undertaken to capitalize on advances in different disciplines, such as genomics, nanotechnology, and computational biology. Research into the interactions of animal and plant hosts with pathogens and beneficial microbes is essential to preventing disease and encouraging mutualistic interactions. On a more holistic scale, interactions occurring among organisms within a microbial community require study so that a healthy balance between the highly managed ecosystems of industrial agriculture and the unmanaged ecosystems of the natural environment can be achieved. Finally, research is critical to determine why pathogens continue to emerge and where and how newly developed technologies should be put to use.
Barriers to seizing these research opportunities must be overcome. The lagging priority of food and agriculture research will be reversed as funding programs and research institutions recognize its importance and improve resources, infrastructure, and incentives accordingly. Endeavors, such as long-term research projects and the banking of diverse microbial specimens, require support so that a foundation of future innovation and discovery is established and sustained. A decline in the number of young scientists entering the fields of food and agriculture research will have to be reversed with funding and fellowship opportunities to provide a highly trained core that will carry out the research of the future. Regulatory hurdles impose stringent processes for research on certain organisms, but are viewed as out of step with actual hazards and must be revised consistent with scientific assessment of risk. Changes that are needed will have to be advocated by scientists, research institutions, professional societies, non-governmental institutions, and companies that are committed to food and agriculture.
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