Mutualistic Microbes for Plant Productivity

UT-Battelle, LLC, acting under its Prime Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the management and operation of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), is seeking a commercialization partner for an opportunity based on a Mutualistic Microbe Complex Designed to Increase Plant Productivity.  The ORNL Technology Transfer Office will accept licensing applications through December 19, 2016.

ORNL researchers have studied the impact of a constructed multiple-microbial member community for a bio-fertilizer for increased plant productivity. The bio-fertilizer is a mix of naturally occurring microbes (fungi and bacteria) that are symbionts that can advance food and energy (SAFE) crops, coined as SAFE bio-fertilizer.

Initial greenhouse studies showed that the SAFE bio-fertilizer had a significant higher biomass yield on both poplar and corn plants.  Field crop studies in both poplar and corn confirmed the increased plant growth and additional benefits from the soil microflora such as increased pathogen resistance and increased crop drought tolerance.  The bio-fertilizer can be readily applied to seeds, plant surfaces, or soils, and is stable at the field-scale.  Application of SAFE bio-fertilizer is flexible in both formulation and agnostic to agriculture practice.  The following are some of the experimental validated advantages observed across different poplar and corn plant systems in the greenhouse at ORNL, and cases with completed field studies for these systems are also indicated below:

  • Superior germination frequencies for faster crop establishment (poplar and corn, field studies)
  • Increased growth and biomass (poplar and corn, field studies)
  • Increased plant defense against pathogens
  • Improved drought tolerance (poplar, field studies)
  • Improved soil heath (corn, field studies)

This technology was originally developed using federal funds and selected for further development under the laboratory's Technology Innovation Program (TIP). TIP supports technology development using royalties from existing technology licenses to accelerate the market readiness of high potential technologies.

License applications will be evaluated based on prospective partners' ability and commitment to successfully commercialize the technology.  If a license is executed, the ORNL researchers developing the technology will be eligible to compete for additional TIP funding to further advance the technology.

Please contact Jennifer Caldwell, Group Leader, Technology Commercialization, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 865.574.4180, with any questions and to obtain a license application for this opportunity.

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