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Fall 2023 Agricultural Microbiomes Symposium

Growing knowledge and application of microbiomes in agriculture for a more sustainable future

Join us October 18th & 19th, 2023

Microbial communities living in soils and on plants are increasingly recognized for their key roles in agroecosystem services, including soil nutrient recycling, disease suppression, plant nutrient provisioning, growth promotion, and stress tolerance. This symposium will address benefits, challenges, knowledge gaps, ethics, and technological advances important for understanding and translating the enormous potential of agricultural microbiomes into practice. Speakers from academia, extension, industry, and government will engage attendees in panel discussions, with opportunities for networking.

Financial support was generously provided by the RL Rabb Science and Society Symposia Fund, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, and the Microbiomes and Complex Microbial Communities Cluster. Thanks to their support, there is no cost to attend the symposium. To ensure these funds are used responsibly, please notify us of any cancellations as soon as possible.


Wednesday, October 18th

  • 8:15 am – Registration opens
  • 8:45 am – Welcome
  • 9:00 am – 10:15 am – Session 1: Beneficial microbiomes in agriculture (moderator: Christine Hawkes)
9:00 Jill Paulik, AgBiomeUnlocking Nature’s Toolbox: Benefits and Lessons from Microbial Technologies
9:30 Rachel Vann, NCSUBenefits of rhizobium in meeting agricultural nitrogen demand
9:45Aram Mikaelyan, NCSUEntomopathogen biocontrol: tools for more effective treatments
10:00 Panel discussion
  • 10:30 am-11:30 am– Session 2: Microbiomes in practice – applications and challenges (moderator: Mallory Choudoir)
10:30Mallory Choudoir,  NCSUScaling to develop effective microbiome solutions
10:45Jun Goh, AgBiomeHow microbiome data informs product development
11:00Alex Woodley, NCSULimiting nitrogen loss by inhibiting nitrifiers
11:15Panel discussion
11:30 Break
  • 11:45 am -12:45 pm – Session 3: Knowledge gaps and future needs (moderator: Amy Grunden)
11:45Lone Bækgaard, NovozymesAn industry perspective on microbiome knowledge gaps
12:00Shanice Webster, Duke UniversityThe role of microbiomes in plant defense
12:15Joseph Gage, NCSUBreeding for beneficial microbiomes
12:30Panel discussion
  • 12:45 pm- 2:00 pm – Lunch
  • 2:00 pm -3:00 pm – Session 4: Ethical and social considerations of microbiome manipulation in agriculture (moderator: Katie Barnhill)
2:00Katie Barnhill, NCSUPolicy considerations in microbiome technologies
2:15Amanda Pierce, US EPARegulation of microbes for use in controlling pest populations
2:30Christopher L. Cummings, US Army Corps of EngineersSocietal and ethical implications of precision microbiome engineering
2:45Panel discussion
3:00 Break
  • 3:15 pm -4:15 pm – Session 5: Tools and tech for harnessing microbiomes in agriculture (moderators: Manuel Kleiner & Ben Callahan)
3:15Nathan Crook, NCSUUsing synthetic biology to engineer agricultural microbiomes
3:30Piran Cargeeg, BASFDevelopment of microbial seed treatments
3:45Kirtley Amos, NCSUPredictive modeling for development of effective microbiome applications
4:00Panel discussion
  • 4:30 pm – Networking mixer & poster session

Thursday, October 19th

Field Trip – Microbiomes in Action, Led by Dr. Mallory Choudoir

  • Join the NCSU Soil Microbiome Extension Team for a trip to the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) at Cherry Research Farm in Goldsboro, NC. The CEFS Farming Systems Research Unit is a 200+ acre large-scale study of different management regimes continuously operated since 1999. We will tour research plots and discuss ongoing microbiome research. Attendees will also engage in hands-on demonstrations of field research methods, including sampling for microbiome analysis, measuring gas emissions, and collecting plant health metrics. Transportation will be provided.

Workshop – Microbiome Analysis, Led by Dr. Benjamin Callahan

  • The workshop will address the analysis and interpretation of microbiome sequencing data using the R data science platform. Specific R packages to be discussed include DADA2 (for amplicon sequencing), decontam (for low-biomass sequencing), and phyloseq (for analysis and visualization). Although not required, attendees are encouraged to bring a laptop and will have access to workshop materials that can be run on their own machines. 

Location & Logistics


The symposium will take place in the Plant Sciences Building Seminar Room (first floor), located on the NC State University Centennial Campus (840 Oval Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606). 

Map location
Seminar room location (red dot)


Visitor Parking is available in multiple locations on the Centennial Campus. The nearest visitor parking to the Plant Sciences Building is the Partners Way Visitor Parking Deck, located at 851 Partners Way.

Additional parking options are also nearby and additional information is available via NCSU Transportation.


Hotel accommodations are the responsibility of the attendees. For those who plan to spend the night, a list of area hotels is provided here.