Scientist on a Soapbox: What is an Abiotic?
By Dr. Jane M. Caldwell
English is a flexible language. We are always inventing new words and finding new uses for old ones. I can remember when there were no plastic cups of yogurt in the dairy case. My Mom used to make yogurt at home by boiling milk, adding a teaspoon of old yogurt (“back-slopping”, in the cheese-making parlance), and incubating in a Styrofoam container. Today, the grocery store is packed with many textures, flavors and nationalities of yogurt.
Due to televised educational campaigns, everyone knows that a probiotic is a live bacterium found in yogurt which, when eaten, confers health benefits to the host. Then, we discovered the usefulness of abiotics, dietary fiber which nourish the probiotics and help them grow in our gut. Synbiotic, a term which was coined to describe the synergy between the two, came later. Now, we have an old term which is being used in a new way: Abiotic. Previously, abiotic was defined as non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms (Thank you Wikipedia). Researchers in the field of microbiology recognize that non-viable bacteria and their fermentates also confer health benefits. This is the new academic definition of abiotic.
Although abiotic is a new term for industry, Culbac® is not. It has been produced by a proprietary fermentation process in Storm Lake, Iowa since the late 1960s. Dr. Herbert Peer, a visionary research scientist, identified special Proprietary Strain of Lactobacillus Fermentation Product bacteria. He developed a fermentation process ending with a stabilization step which rendered the bacteria non-viable. During this fermentation, metabolites are produced and released. These metabolites, which include the non-viable bacterial cells themselves, stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms when fed to livestock, sprayed on forages or applied to soils.
Our abiotic has several advantages over probiotics. Culbac® does not contain live bacteria, so it does not need to be refrigerated. Therefore, it has a longer shelf life at any temperature. Chemicals or physical processes which kill live bacteria do not reduce the efficacy of an abiotic. Culbac® enhances the growth of naturally-occurring, beneficial bacteria already present in environments ranging from the ruminant gut to corn stalks to alfalfa. Therefore, it is not species-specific and can be applied successfully to a variety of animal and plant hosts. An abiotic is a safe alternative to an antibiotic as its mode of action does not produce resistant, disease-causing bacteria harmful to human health. Twitter summary: Culbac® is an abiotic which offers livestock, forage and commodity producers a naturally effective solution to many production problems.