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Research and development of microbes supporting sustainable agriculture for 2050

Shin-ichiro Agake

Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology、Ph. D. Student

Challenge period

2021-09-01 - 2022-08-31

Final progress report

Fri, 07 Jan 2022 14:24:25 +0900

Progresses

36 times

Supporters

54 people

Elapsed time

Wed, 01 Sep 2021 10:00:00 +0900

What do you want to achieve through your research?

Modern agriculture, which uses a lot of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, is the cause of global environmental problems such as water pollution and resource depletion. In 2021, the "Strategy for Sustainable Food Systems, MeaDRI" was established as a strategy for sustainable Japanese agriculture, with the goal of achieving 25% of Japanese agriculture to be organic by 2050. Likewise, the EU has set a goal of reducing chemical fertilizer use by 20% and achieving at least 25% organic farming by 2030 (farm-to-table strategy).

However, the percentage of organic farming in Japan is currently very low at 0.2% (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, "Circumstances Surrounding Organic Farming"), and in order to achieve this goal, more than 100-fold the current percentage will be needed to convert into organic farming in 30 years.

The problem with organic farming is that the productivity of crops is reduced by 20-30% compared to conventional farming, but through my research, I hope to achieve this future goal through the power of soil microorganisms, which will lead to the further development of sustainable agriculture.

What kind of process are you trying to achieve?

Among soil microorganisms, there are many bacteria that promote plant growth, usually referred as plant growth promoting bacteria: PGPB. “Biofertilizer” is an agricultural material made by the best strains of isolated bacteria.

Biofertilizer can improve the productivity of organic farming and is one of the essential technologies for sustainable agriculture. For instance, biofertilizers developed by our laboratory can increase the yield of paddy rice by 10-20% or provide the same yield in conventional cultivation with 30% less chemical fertilizer.

By clarifying the mechanism of these excellent strains, developing more effective biofertilizers, and establishing organic cultivation techniques using them, I would like to support both agricultural productivity and a sustainable global environment.

What research topics are you currently working on?

My research focuses on the interaction between plants and microorganisms.

During my master's program, I conducted research on biofertilizer application technology for rice in the fields in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. At that time, many farmers working in the Nonprofit organization, Yuukinosato (Organic village) Towa, helped me a lot. I realized at that time that I want to be a researcher for farmers.

In my current doctoral course, I am focusing on the spores of Bacillus bacteria, which is PGPB. Especially with the model plant of C4 photosynthesis, I am researching with the aim of isolating and identifying new and unique spore-specific substances and elucidating their mechanisms in plant-microbe interaction.

*The spore is the dormant state of Bacillus species under environmental stress.
*C4 plants are showing high photosynthetic capacity, such as corn and sugarcane.

I am thinking it is very interesting to elucidate the step by step mechanism on how they communicate which cannot be inferred by common language; such interaction resulting to plant growth promotion.

Why we need your support

The highest difficulty to the research and development of biofertilizers is gaining the understanding of farmers. This is because converting from conventional to organic farming will result in lower yields and directly affect their livelihood.

However, I am researching keeping in mind that I want to share our latest research results on the effectiveness of bio-fertilizers and tell the environmental impact of conventional farming with farmers. To do so, it is not enough for me to explain my research results at academic conferences or publish articles. I would like to inform our research in the world. This is one of the reasons why I am also currently a member of the Nonprofit organization of Council on Technology for Utilizing Agricultural Microorganisms.

The reason why I decided to challenge crowdfunding is because it is one of the most effective ways to spread the knowledge of biofertilizers widely.

Profile

Shin-ichiro Agake

A Ph.D. student at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT). I had studied chemistry for seven years at Ibaraki National College of Technology and spent three of those years researching the synthesis of model chemical compounds of enzymes found in microorganisms. Eventually, I was fascinated by enzymes and decided to study agriculture to solve environmental problems by using microorganisms. I entered to the master's program at TUAT in 2017. In December 2019, I was a visiting student in Stacey's lab at the University of Missouri sponsored by Tobitate! JAPAN scholarship but returned to Japan temporarily due to the pandemic of the COVID-19.

Project timeline

Date Plans
Sep. 2021 Participation to the national conference (Japanese Society for Plant Microbe interactions) and management of the young researchers' community.
Sep. 2021 Experiment on analysis of rhizosphere microbiome
Sep. 2021 Submission the manuscript 1 & writing the manuscript 2
Oct. 2021 Asking co-author to checking the manuscript 2
Nov. 2021 Submission the manuscript 2
Dec. 2021 Apply for doctoral dissertation review
Dec. 2021 Participation and presentation in the International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
Dec. 2021 Report on the international conference to the national journal
Feb. 2022 Doctoral defense
Mar. 2022 Graduation of Ph.D. course at TUAT (hopefully)
Mar. 2022 Online report in zoom for supporters (first half)
April 2022 Plant assay test 1 (on iron deficiency)
May 2022 Plant assay test 2 (on extracellular polymeric substances)
June 2022 Screening test for new useful microorganisms (PGPBs)
Aug. 2022 Online report in zoom for supporters (second half)

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