IALR’s life sciences work supports a broad range of industries from tobacco and food products to wood and biostimulants. Biotechnology research includes the characterization of more than 1,500 beneficial plant bacteria endophytes, which show promise for commercialization as natural plant biostimulants.

As agriculture and forestry are Virginia’s largest industries, IALR scientists work with growers and existing industry to solve problems and create new methods to positively impact the economy and promote the region’s agricultural assets.

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Life Sciences & Biotechnology

Scott Lowman, PhD

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Biostimulant Research Center

Agriculture and Forestry are Virginia’s largest industries, accounting for over $91 billion dollars and over 442,000 jobs. Therefore, researchers at IALR are focused on improving agricultural production naturally through biology and technology. They are spotlighting biotechnology in the form of beneficial plant bacteria endophytes, the products they produce and mechanisms they possess to engineer faster growing and healthier plants. By first isolating and characterizing endophytes from regional plants, IALR scientists are able to then use these endophytes as a toolbox to fight common crop diseases and to increase overall plant growth and health while protecting the environment and satisfying the consumer demand for healthier food. Additionally, technology, such as next generation DNA sequencing, robotic and drone imaging, and data analytics, is used to precisely find what formulations work best in a crop-specific and environmental situation.

Currently, IALR is working towards establishing a center focused on biostimulant research, accumulating the years of research by IALR scientists on beneficial plant bacteria endophytes. This center will be unique in the United States and will address a critical research need in agriculture. It will leverage IALR’s endophyte library, now totaling more than 1,500 characterized endophytes, to work with both industry and academia to uncover sustainable solutions in agriculture. This will allow IALR to develop new business opportunities and university collaborations as well as get a head start on new trends in agricultural technologies.

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