Today, Eagle Genomics, announces an award from DEFRA’s Farming Innovation Programme to explore – in partnership with Rothamsted Research and CABI – the vital role of soil microbiomes as part of a move towards greater sustainable agriculture and net zero food production to feed the planet’s growing population.

By leveraging science from Rothamsted Research and CABI – as well as novel data analysis and insights using Eagle Genomics’ innovative e[datascientist] platform – this two-year feasibility study advances an understanding of arable soil and farming practices to promote regenerative farming.

This award – to be delivered in partnership with Innovate UK’s Transforming Food Production (TFP) Challenge – prioritises solutions for farmers and growers to facilitate improved arable farming, productivity, sustainability, and resilience with less impact on the environment.

It is being delivered under DEFRA’s Farming Futures: Environmental resilience, Feasibility funding – worth £391,347 – from Innovate UK.

The project will utilise soil from sites in the ASSIST farm network, which are also included in the BBSRC funded UK Crop Microbiome Cryobank project, as well as Rothamsted long term experimental fields. It also builds on Rothamsted’s past research in understanding biological, physical, and chemical elements of soil health.

Dr Yvonne Pinto, Director of Strategy, Innovation, Sustainability and Bioeconomy, Ag Bio at Eagle Genomics, said, “Eagle Genomics will analyse data signatures between different agricultural practises and link these to develop a barometer for soil health, while CABI will biobank these samples for provenance.

“This will increase understanding of the effect of different agricultural practices on the functionalities of healthy and poor soil indicators.”

These outputs will directly benefit farmers in the UK, providing indicators of soil health status and guide the transition to more sustainable and restorative agriculture.

Dr Tim Mauchline, Plant and Soil Microbiologist at Rothamsted Research, said, “Soil Health testing laboratories have the appetite to use these signatures to provide more detailed analysis to guide farmers decision making. This will enable the provision of specific practical advice to farmers to improve their resilience, to increase soil carbon, increase biodiversity and water retention and potentially with additional revenue streams.”

In the UK roughly 84% of fertile topsoil has been lost since 1850 due to highly mechanised farming systems causing compaction, erosion, and sub optimal plantings. Soil microbiomes drive critical functions in agro ecosystems, including soil fertility, crop productivity and stress tolerance.

Soil degradation was calculated to cost £1.2Bn a year in 2010. System-level agricultural management practices can induce structural alterations, thereby changing the microbial processes at the micro-scale.

These changes have large-scale consequences, such as soil erosion, reduced soil fertility and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, the major soil health indicators are categorised into three groups: physical, chemical, and biological.

The important work, as part of this collaboration, will significantly advance soil microbiology as an important component of the soil health continuum and enable practical strategies for farmers to conserve and regenerate their soils.

Dr Matt Ryan, Research Lead, Biological Resources at CABI, said, “These valuable crop microbial samples are a vital resource for scientific researchers investigating how to ensure food security amid a range of challenges to crop production that also includes the threats posed by pests and diseases.

“Advancing research on solutions to mitigate these stressors is also imperative to help ensure the UK’s food security at a time when chemical fertilizers and pesticides are in the spotlight amid the growing concerns of climate change.”

Professor Martin Broadley, Science Director, Sustainable Soils and Crops at Rothamsted, said, “Rothamsted Research is delighted to be partnering with Eagle Genomics and CABI, to support this exciting project to develop practical indicators of soil health status. Applying recent advances in our understanding of soil biology, to enable the development of ‘next generation’ soil tests, will help farmers and the wider agriculture sector in delivering profitable and healthy agricultural systems.”

Victoria Kimonides, Eagle Genomics’ CEO, said, “The output of this project is instrumental in developing models and providing advanced services to organizations that enable them to understand, monitor, and be on the front foot in addressing climate change and its impact on agriculture.”


Additional information

Main image: (Credit: Pixabay).

About Eagle Genomics

Harnessing microbiome science enables large enterprises to tackle today’s grand challenges in health and nutrition, including soil degradation, the collapse of biodiversity, and unsustainable consumer value chains. The microbiome is the on-ramp to the Bio Revolution — the integration of biological sciences across value chains to drive trillions of dollars in economic opportunity.

Eagle Genomics is accelerating this revolution by providing the essential tools to analyze, explore and exploit complex microbiome data.

The e[datascientist] network life sciences platform creates a trusted data fabric and an intuitive application framework to support the entire innovation journey, from hypothesis to business outcome.
By enabling the conversation between microbiome data and the scientist, Eagle Genomics is unlocking a new era of collaborative, data-driven innovation; allowing companies to seize the opportunities of the Bio Revolution and tackle the grand challenges facing the world today.