Now everyone can have »green fingers«
12.10.2005 Now everyone can have »green fingers«
Tübingen-based biotech company Sourcon-Padena GmbH & Co. KG from the STERN region develops and sells a plant strengthener that ensures improved flowering for ornamental plants and higher-yield harvests for agricultural crops. The "plant booster" is obtained from a microorganism that is present in almost every type of soil. To exploit the full potential of the microorganism, it undergoes a complex cultivation procedure. The result is a product that is ideal for both environmentally sound agriculture and home gardening.
People with the magic touch when it comes to plants are said to be green-fingered. But those without green fingers need nature to help in other ways to ensure their begonias bloom and their strawberries ripen. Many garden lovers are just as suspicious about chemical fertilisers as environmentally friendly gardeners and organic farmers. With these target groups in mind, Sourcon-Padena GmbH & Co. KG has for five years been developing and selling plant strengtheners that are purely organic, i.e. environmentally sound, thereby rendering green fingers unnecessary.
The secret is that Sourcon-Padena utilises microorganisms that are present in almost every soil. A single shovel of earth contains billions of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. Together with scientists at the University of Hohenheim, Dr. Christoph Pfefferle, a microbiologist and CEO of Sourcon-Padena, has discovered the particular capabilities of the bacillary bacterium Pseudomonas proradix. "Proradix surrounds the plant root like a protective sleeve, supporting resistance to pests and optimising nutrient uptake," explains Dr. Pfefferle. "The plant bears more flowers or fruit, grows faster and more profusely and can even survive if your neighbour forgets to water it when you are on holiday." The bacterium feeds on secretions from the plant root and leaves no residue in the soil.
Pseudomonas proradix is naturally present in soil, but to utilise the microorganism as a plant strengthener, it first has to undergo a complex cultivation process before it is then extracted by means of a patented method. "We had to prepare it in this way to ensure it can be preserved without difficulty and used by everybody," says Dr. Pfefferle. "Up till now, microorganisms like this could only be stored in liquid form – and for a limited time at that." Researchers at the Tübingen-based biotech company have now succeeded in making an imperishable powder form of Pseudomonas proradix ready for market, thereby giving the company a clear run to tap into the home improvement and gardening markets.
However, the research work at Sourcon-Padena has by no means come to an end. On the contrary, developments harnessing the forces of nature are very much in their infancy. The company's cold store contains thousands of further microorganisms, frozen soil samples from the seabed, from rainforests and even from fields around the Tübingen area. "Organisms with similar potential can be found on your doorstep, you don’t have to travel to the Amazon," says Dr. Pfefferle. "But having the right isolation strategy is a crucial requirement for obtaining new microorganisms with high commercial exploitation value."
At present, it is predominantly farmers who are using prepared Pseudomonas proradix to increase harvests of potatoes, strawberries, maize and tomatoes. However, as Dr. Pfefferle explains, it is by no means about trying to obtain the biggest potatoes: "For instance, it is much more important for optimum production of French fries to use high-quality tubers of an equal size." And Pseudomonas proradix can make a significant contribution to achieving this. The bacterium even helps bring golf courses and other sports fields back to optimum fitness. So it comes as no surprise that the groundsmen at the stadia for the football World Cup are turning to Dr. Pfefferle in search of solutions for keeping their overplayed turf in prime condition.