For many reasons I have been interested for the last few years in how agricultural practices affect microbiomes. For example in regard to crops, how do farming practices affect the microbiomes of the plants, the microbiomes of the soil and area around the plants, and the microbiomes of organisms (including humans) who make use of the plants?
I won’t go into all the detail right now for why I am interested in this topic but for some examples of my work in this area see The microbes we eat abundance and taxonomy of microbes consumed in a day’s worth of meals for three diet types and Structure, variation, and assembly of the root-associated microbiomes of rice.
Anyway, the reason I am writing this now is that tomorrow I am “testifying” to a NRC Committee about this topic and some related topics. The presentation will be shown live online (register here). And I thought, in the interest of openness, I would post some of what I am thinking about here before hand.
One of the key topics for tomorrow is something I have been snooping around at for a few years – how does glyphosate (the key ingredient of RoundUp and a widely used herbicide) affect microbiomes? I am interested in this from both a scientific point of view (I think it is an interesting topic) and also from a “public policy / education” point of view. I think this is a really good topic to have a public discussion of “microbiomes” and both the importance of microbial communities and the challenges with studying them. So a few years ago I started thinking about working on this and developing a “Citizen Science” project around it. And, well, I am still working on that idea and probably will be trying to launch something in the near future. As a first start I thought it would be good to start to engage the community (researchers, teachers, the public, etc) in a discussion of this topic. So .. this is the beginning of that I guess.
Some questions I think are interesting:
- Does glyphosate affect plant microbiomes?
- Does glyphosate affect soil microbiomes?
- Does consumption of plants treated with glyphosate affect the microbiomes of the consumer?
- Directly (e.g., by glyphosate itself being in the food and directly affecting microbomes”
- Indirectly (by glyphosate affecting the microbiome of the food which in turn affects the microbiome of the consumer)
- If glyphosate affects any of these microbiomes above, are these significant affects (e.g., in terms of health)?