News & Insights

What are Pink Pigmented Facultative Methylotrophs (PPFMs)?

by Tom Laurita, CEO

That’s what I asked myself the day I first learned about the industrious and ubiquitous microorganisms that launched NewLeaf Symbiotics.

Now I proudly and openly talk about PPFMs every day. But there was a time that – despite years in ag – I’d never heard of them. If you’ve landed on this blog post, perhaps you’re in the same boat I was then. So, allow me to explain.

That name is long, and difficult to say. That’s why we prefer to call pink pigmented facultative methylotrophs “M-trophs.” A simple name helps us focus on what these microbes are: naturally occurring, safe, non-toxic…. (And yes, they really are pink.)

So, why should you care about pink pigmented facultative methylotrophs (PPFMs)?

Nearly a decade ago, NewLeaf began our journey to understand M-trophs and their role in sustainable agriculture. What we learned was amazing: M-trophs have co-evolved with plants to occupy a unique niche in the microbiome since plants first appeared millions of years ago.  Methanol is a by-product of plant metabolism, and M-trophs use methanol as an energy source. This means that there is no ‘cost’ to the plant in hosting M-trophs, and all plants are beneficially colonized by M-trophs. That is a truly symbiotic relationship.

As a key part of the plant ecosystem, there are millions of diverse strains of M-trophs and they are so important to plant health that we consider them the second plant genome. The more we look, the more potential positive impacts we find.

  • They can help with resistance management.
  • They can improve plant durability.
  • They can improve crop yield.
  • They can help fight disease.
  • They can improve nutrient uptake.

All this in a naturally occurring microbe. Talk about sustainable agriculture!

Perhaps you’re skeptical. I was too.

Consumer demands are being felt at the farm level. I hear growers talk about their experience using other biological products and their struggles with efficacy and consistency. Growers invest a lot of time, money, and resources into their farms and they deserve a good return on their investments.

The data are undeniable. (You can review more about the results we’re seeing here.) After years of our company’s research, I am convinced. I now believe that M-trophs will transform agriculture.

Because M-trophs are so special, at NewLeaf we are singularly focused on this new class of agricultural biologicals. We are about 50 strong, convinced that M-trophs play a key role in sustainable agriculture. I welcome you to visit our new website, Newleafsym.com, to learn more about our work and meet all of our amazing professionals committed to helping farmers and growers find sustainable solutions to their biggest challenges.

Today, and every day, we work to isolate different strains of M-trophs, understand their impact, and develop products containing the best fit M-troph for the task, as seed or in-furrow treatments and foliar sprays. This new class of agricultural biologicals can be used as a standalone application or in combination with chemistries, or traits, to reduce chemical loading and help overcome resistance.

We believe M-trophs live at an essential intersection:

  • They are natural and safe – consumers are closer to their food and want to understand how it’s produced.
  • They’re incredibly impactful – delivering what growers need from any product.
  • And, they represent one of the most promising, sustainable areas of farming. We all have a stake in that.

So, what are pink pigmented facultative methylotrophs?

At NewLeaf Symbiotics, we think these M-trophs are the future of agriculture.

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