02/03/22 |   Biotechnology and biosafety  Research, Development and Innovation  Plant production

Biological transplant between plants improves crop productivity by 30%

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Photo: Ronaldo Rufino

Ronaldo Rufino - Taking microorganisms from biologically healthy areas to colapsed soils can improve performance

Taking microorganisms from biologically healthy areas to colapsed soils can improve performance

  • By transferring microorganisms from biologically-balanced areas to degraded ones, the scientists were able to change the microbiome of cultivated plants.

  • Experiments recorded productivity increases ranging from 10% to 30% (11% in soybeans, 9.4% in potatoes, 25% in corn, 18% in wheat, 13% in beans, and 30% in carrot crops).

  • They also saw improved performance in resistance to pests and diseases in some of the plots, with reduced use of pesticides in some situations.

  • High-yield plantations without plant health issues are donors of soil with positive microbial load to other lands that need rehabilitation.

  • Research generated technological routes for the production of different products.

A study led by Embrapa in partnership with the company Revbio (Paulínia, SP) demonstrated it is possible to change the microbiology of the rhizosphere and the aerial portion of plants cultivated in degraded agricultural soils by transferring microorganisms of the plants from a more biologically balanced area to other collapsed areas.

The technique aims at boosting plants cultivated in areas in biotic imbalance by using the microbial community present in areas that express high productivity with no phytosanitary issues, which entails the use of known concepts of plant microbiome engineering.

The technology also proposes a new approach for the use of communities of beneficial microorganisms associated with the roots, making production systems more responsive and balanced.

The Embrapa Environment researcher André May, who coordinated the study, explains that the technique known as biological transplant, which is well-disseminated in other segments of science, was developed using systems in biotic balance, present in cultivated areas of excellency, where plant and microbial genomes pose perfect interactions according to environmental management. “What we made was to bring this reality to the controlled conditions of agricultural production, manipulating the environment, aiming at an optimal interaction between genomes, so that from this complex process we could extract a line of conceptually simple products, already present in nature in its process of constant evolution”, he reports.


The concept was tested in a broad variety of commercial crops and the response was productivity increases between 10% and 30% in real cultivation conditions, including an improvement in the performance of resistance to pests and diseased in some of the croplands, with reduced use of pesticides in some situations. “The treated plant shows a whole other metabolic behavior, plant vigor becomes higher, the leaves are greener, the foliar area is increased, which is reflected in productivity”, the Embrapa researcher explains.



A term used to designate a group of microorganisms - fungi, protozoa and bacteria - that coexist and interact with the organisms of plants and animals.

Research estimates that over a 100 trillion microbes `inhabit' in the human body. They actively contribute to our reproductive functions, even help immunoregulation and even in the process of obtaining nutrients, in the case of the gastrointestinal microbiome.

Similarly, this interaction also occurs in plant roots, where the plants recruit bacteria and fungi that are important for their development as determined by environmental needs, in a varied range of options.

Microbes are everywhere and play an important ecosystem role. In agriculture, microorganisms can promote plant growth by producing phytohormones, helping in the roots' nutrient exchange or improving the biotic balance of the agricultural system, and ultimately change the behavior of pests and diseases.

The study

The researchers selected high-productivity plantations without plant health issues to be donors of soil with positive microbial load. Such special soil was added to organically prepared substrata that are conditioned into bags for the cultivation of healthy plants that were grown until an ideal point of microbial recruitment: source of the microbial community, that is then extracted and stabilized through an industrial process.

The scientists then tested different sources of full microbial communities present in cultivated plants that would contain endophytic microorganisms – those that are present within the plants, and rhisophilous microorganisms – which live in partnership with the roots –with different frequency and diversity.

They performed many tests in soybean crops in pre-commercial conditions, one of which took place in the outskirts of São Gabriel do Oeste, MS, with and without the use of pesticides, according to the studied treatments. The tests indicated an increment of 11% in productivity, as opposed to the non-treated control soybeans, and increased potassium concentration in plant tissue. This is important as the mineral is related to crucial functions in plant productivity.

The methodology was also tested in other crops, such as wheat, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, where an expressive productivity increase of 18% in the treated area against the control area was verified; with corn the productivity was 25% higher; in beans the addition was of 12.95% in comparison with non-treated plants. Meanwhile in tests with carrots, held in Andradas, MG, the productivity was 30.3% higher.

Experiments with potatoes

The products containing the full microbial community of cultivated plants was widely tested in potato croplands, with the cultivars Ágata and Atlantic, which were inoculated with the bioproducts.

The two varieties showed distinct responses regarding the incidence and effectiveness of the disease. Late blight, considered the world's main disease, was the illness that affected the two varieties the most. The cultivar Atlantic showed reduced incidence of the important disease when the plants were treated with the technology.

The Atlantic variety also presented an increase in the number of tubers in the commercial sizes that are most valued by the market and an increase in yield with the use of the product. Meanwhile the cultivar Ágata showed an accentuated reduction in tuber deformities.

The productivity of those potato fields was 9.4% higher than in non-treated fields, in tests held in the state of Paraná, in extreme climate conditions, with periods of recurrent rains.

Photo: André May


How it works

The bacterial profile of plants inoculated with the “pool” of microorganisms was enriched with plant-growth promoting bacterial groups. These groups relate to specific protection and nutrition roles, for instance.

The scientist explains that, through an innovative process, the microorganisms are extracted from the donor plants, which recruit them from especially prepared substrata. Then the microorganisms are stabilized in a water-soluble powder that can be applied in two ways: seed treatment or leaf spraying, depending on the crop.

Foto: André May

As it is a product that can load the microbial community with affinity for original live cells of the cultivated plant, there is a change in the microbiome of the treated plant and subsequent enrichment of important functional groups. “We treated soybeans with the soybean microorganisms and carrot with carrot microorganisms, and so on”, May explains.

The researcher stresses there is a specific production line for each crop of interest. Thus, the products are generated for each crop and stage of interest, since they vary depending on the crop phenology. “The products come from the plants' aerial portion and from plant roots, with different functions and forms of application”, he states.

 “To generate inoculant bioproducts of high biological quality, the use of soils with high production history is vital so that the biological transplant process can result in more vigorous plants.”

André May, Embrapa researcher


The technology is licensed for RevBio, which develops the production process and prepares for new partnerships with the aim of making the product tradeable, with formulas for seed treatment or leaf spraying, and modified dosing for each kind of application.

Pedro Carvalho, from Revbio, reports that the innovation in this technology lies in the fact that it uses plant intelligence to determine what is best in organic, microbiological and chemical terms for its own species. 

Carvalho explains that all the processes to extract such microorganisms and organic chemicals from donor plants cultivated in a positive environment were developed from scratch. He explains that since the plant is the system's natural bioreactor, every part of the process, from the set up of the clonal garden to the stabilization and obtainment of the product, requires a high level of innovation and control. “The result has proved to be consistent and promising. Our product works like maternal colostrum, as it is rich in practically everything that the plant needs to develop its immune system and become a healthier and more and productive adult plant”, he asserts. 

“The only difference in this process from other existing ones in the market is that we treat the life with life itself, that is, we use the force of nature to the benefit of agriculture,” André May says.

The proposal, he says, is to let the natural evolution of the processes between microorganisms and cultivated plants happen spontaneously, in a controlled environment, but without chemical interferences, aiming at enriching depauperated and tired croplands with biological material from high-yield areas. The technique allows that arable areas that have been exhausted by intensive management benefit from the best potential of high-performance croplands.

Comparison of the carrots that had biological transplant with those that did not receive the treatment (on the right). Photo: André May


Research data

The technology was funded by the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp) through the PIPE program.

Part of the research findings were published on the paper The use of indigenous bacterial community as inoculant for plant growth promotion in soybean cultivation, on the journal Archives of Agronomy and Soil Science, with participation of the research team comprising André May, Luciana Fontes Coelho, Alexandre Pedrinho, Bruna Durante Batista, Lucas William Mendes, Rodrigo Mendes, Marcelo Augusto Boechat Morandi, Gabriel Barth, Ronaldo Silva Viana and Elke Simoni Dias Vilela.

Marcos Vicente (MTb 19.027/MG)
Embrapa Environment

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Cristina Tordin (MTb 28.499/SP)
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Translation: Mariana Medeiros (13044/DF)
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