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Bayer-Backed Startup to Open Greenhouse for Crop-Friendly Microbes

Young habanero chile plants grow in a box to help germinate seeds at the Barbosa greenhouse in Merida, Mexico, on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. Photographer: Susana Gonzlez/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) —

A startup backed by agribusiness giant Bayer AG is opening a greenhouse to study how microbes can be used to protect crops from pests and diseases.

Joyn Bio will use the 6,048 square-foot facility in Woodland, California to engineer microbial strains that are good for plants, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

The move comes as agribusinesses like Bayer try to find alternatives to chemical pesticides and man-made fertilizer, with farmers increasingly under pressure to switch to more environmentally friendly practices. At the same time, pests and diseases are becoming more resistant to current synthetic chemicals. 

Earlier: Bayer Unit Makes More Investments to Curb Synthetic Fertilizers

Through its microbe work, Joyn Bio seeks to cut the need for nitrogen fertilizer. That’s relevant now as farmers are considering whether to reduce next season’s plantings of corn — which typically uses lots of nitrogen — due to skyrocketing prices.

Unlike soybeans, “corn’s nitrogen has to come from synthetic fertilizer,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Miille said in an interview. “It’s become one of these interesting dilemmas where it’s absolutely critical and it’s not sustainable.”

Joyn Bio, headquartered in Boston, was founded in 2017 as a joint venture between Leaps by Bayer and Ginkgo Bioworks.

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