Preserving UK soil microbial biodiversity for sustainable agriculture

Scientists have teamed up to create a new UK Crop Microbiome Cryobank (UK-CMCB) to safeguard future research and facilitate the sustainable yield improvement of major food crops.

CABI, which is leading the BBSRC project, joins researchers from Rothamsted Research, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the John Innes Centre, in developing a ‘Noah’s Ark’ of UK microbes from crop systems that will form the first publicly available resource of its kind anywhere in the world.


The UK-CMCB will provide a facility for researchers to source data and samples for their work, including living microbial material as well as genomic and metagenomic sequences from different microbiome environments, including the rhizoplane.


Curator, genetic resource collection at CABI, Dr Matthew Ryan, said: “By preserving these valuable crop microbial samples, from a ‘unique snapshot in time,’ we will generate a representative, very valuable and unique resource from key UK crop systems that will become a vital resource for scientific researchers for generations to come.


“We will be using UK-developed cryotechnology that uses liquid nitrogen to keep the samples secure at very cold temperatures. If you like, it is a ‘Noah’s Ark’ of UK microbes from crop systems and one that has many potential exciting uses.”


All of the project resources will be fully characterised using advanced DNA sequencing techniques in order for scientists to discover what microbes – fungi, bacteria, archaea (single-celled microorganisms with structure similar to bacteria) and viruses – are there, what they are doing in the microbiome and what role they play in enhancing crop growth. The UK-CMCB will create a curated database of sample information associated with annotated sequences, meta-data and analytical tools for end-users.


This will be the first synchronised resource covering the total microbiome of a variety of crops in standardised soil types, supported by bioinformatics, microbiologists, plant health experts and world class storage facilities.


Source: The Scottish Farmer