Common commercial benefits of microorganisms include synthesis of a large number of natural compounds, many of which are essential to human health and the environment. These are the basis for the industrial use of a wide variety of products, including antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers.
Biologically active secondary metabolites are produced by a variety of bacteria, fungi and other microbes (including actinomycetes, unicellular bacteria and nematodes). They account for half of the pharmaceuticals on the market today, and can be used in agriculture to enhance plant production, increase soil microbial biomass, reduce disease incidence and thereby boost crop yields, improve environmental conditions such as soil carbon sequestration, and create environmental benefits such as the reduction of greenhouse gas concentrations and the slowing of climate change.
A plant’s root colonization by introduced microbial strains is referred to as Enhanced Plant Holobionts (EPHs). These plants often show enhanced resistance to specific diseases and pests; resistance to abiotic stresses such as drought, cold, salinity, and flooding; improved nutrient acquisition, nutrient use efficiency, and photosynthesis; enhanced internal cellular functioning; and increased yields.
EPHs can be formed by either exogenous application of microbial inoculum or by mobilization of existing soil populations, and the effects of exogenous microbial applications are greatly affected by the physiochemical environment of the rhizosphere and by the host species and genotypes within a given crop. However, if beneficial microbes are not applied properly and delivered in appropriate form to the target organisms at the proper time, they may not achieve their intended effects or produce their expected results.