In North Carolina, AgBiome, LLC received a multi-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to discover and develop a microbial solution for smallholder farms in West Africa to manage yield-damaging plant-parasitic nematodes.
Yam is an important staple in the diet of many West African nations, providing over 200 calories per day for an estimated 150 million people. The root-knot nematode is one of the most economically important plant pathogens worldwide, affecting over 5,000 different plant species, including yam. RKN infection on yam causes substantial losses during production by destroying edible tissue, ultimately reducing the yield and marketable value.
Although effective, chemical nematicides are not readily available to smallholder farmers in Africa and have known toxicity issues to the user and environment. Biological control of nematodes affords no risk of exposure, unlike synthetic chemistries, and promises the potential to offer season-long control through colonization of the plant and rhizosphere.