Think about a future when synthetic nitrogen fertiliser will be a thing of the past. Yes, what you’re about to read is true. In what is being called a second green revolution scientists at the University of Nottingham have found a way of unlocking atmospheric nitrogen to help plants feed themselves.
Nitrogen fixation is the process by which nitrogen is converted to ammonia, a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen that is necessary for plants to grow. Problem is, only a few plants like legumes (peas, beans, lentils) can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere with the help of symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The vast majority of plants have to get their nitrogen from the soil, and there’s not enough of it everywhere. That’s why humanity uses so much synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. For instance, I have been using the leaves of Gliricidia or Giripushp to provide nitrogen to the soil. In fact, I’ve ringed my farm with dozens of Gliricidia plants. So that I’m never short of them.
Professor Edward Cocking, Director of The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Crop Nitrogen Fixation, has developed a unique method of putting nitrogen-fixing bacteria into the cells of plant roots. His major breakthrough came when he found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar-cane which he discovered could intracellularly colonize all major crop plants. This ground-breaking development potentially provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. The implications for agriculture are enormous as this new technology can provide much of the plant’s nitrogen needs. If this can be done right and safely, it could be a major second Green Revolution, with tremendous impacts on the environment and world food production.