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Envita: N-fixing bacteria for corn improves productivity and sustainability of agricultureqrcode

−− Exclusive interview with Nolan Berg, President at Azotic North America

May. 22, 2020

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May. 22, 2020
Envita, containing Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus, fixes N in corn and other crops beyond legumes. It is the only N-fixing bacteria to work from within the plant cells all season long, and allows every plant cell to fix N from the air. This naturally-occurring food-grade microbe improves both yield and sustainability of agriculture. 

AgroPages released several reports in the past months, introducing the unique features and advantages of Envita developed by Azotic. The company’s President, Nolan Berg, was recently interviewed by AgroPages, to provide us with further knowledge about the background of Envita’s development, as well as the success and future plans of the product.

1) Could you please introduce your company to us?

Azotic North America was formed to introduce a natural nitrogen-fixing technology to farmers in North America. We now have offices in Raleigh, North Carolina, Guelph, Ontario and a global office in Nottingham, UK. After 20 years of academic research we created the first large scale, commercially available nitrogen-fixation product which is now available to farmers across the globe. 
 
We now focus our efforts on developing and commercializing the use of sustainable nitrogen in agriculture applications and our team is continuing to work to revolutionize world food production methods. 

2) Could you tell us the background of Envita’s development?

Developing Envita was no small feat. We may be a young company, but we have a long history in research. Envita, or Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus (Gd) as it was originally named, was first discovered and isolated from sugarcane in 1988 by Dr. Ted Cocking of the University of Nottingham. Over the last 30 years exhaustive studies and field trials have been conducted to isolate the most robust strain of nitrogen fixing bacteria, one that can flourish across all conditions in a formulation that allows it to sustain itself until it can establish with a crop. 

The global company was formed in 2012 and we started focusing on North American crops in 2014 with small plot research and farm scale trials across Canada and the US. Years of research, farm trials and studies gave us the confidence to commercially launch Envita in the US in 2019.  
 
3) Envita contains the active ingredient Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus (Gd). How does Gd make Envita different from other products based on nitrogen-fixing bacteria? 

To start, it is important to understand that microbes have long existed in legumes like soybean crops, and more recent research has been conducted to isolate and improve the selective bacterial microbe that fixes N in non-legume crops, including corn. 
 
For decades, farmers have benefited from the naturally occurring bacteria Rhizobia, which fixes N in crops like soybeans. However, there are two big differences between Rhizobia and Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus, or ‘Gd’ for short, which is now known commercially as Envita in North America. 
 
The above image shows how in soybeans, rhizobia N-fixation is limited to nodules on the root (left). Envita allows every cell in the plant to fix nitrogen from the air, as shown in the corn plant in the middle and soybean plant on the right. 
 
The first major difference is that Envita fixes N in corn and other crops beyond legumes, in fact we have yet to find a crop that Envita cannot successfully colonize. The second is how Envita fixes N from within the plant cells and throughout the entire plant.  The bacteria physically enters the plant cells throughout the plant providing a natural source of nitrogen from within the cells. We have a microscopy picture of the Envita bacteria within the chloroplasts of the cell, right at the heart of photosynthesis, providing nitrogen exactly where it is most needed.  So while Rhizobia and other products on the market works from the outside in, Envita works from the inside out - literally - from within every cell. 
 
The above image shows the nitrogen produced is being used by the plant to produce chlorophyll in the leaves. Envita colonized (bright red) within the chloroplast of cells within a corn leaf. 
 
4) What sort of results are farmers seeing with Envita? 

Azotic has conducted hundreds of field trials around the world. These trials have helped us “fine tune” our formulation for a nitrogen fixing solution, and have shown that Envita can work across many different crops in different growing regions.
 
Independent field trials have shown significant yield increases. If a grower wants a yield boost, they can apply Envita in combination with their regular nitrogen fertility program. If a farmer wants to maintain their normal crop yield and reduce their nitrogen fertilizer that is also an option. Envita is proven to increase yields, on average 5-13% yield and in some cases up to 20% or replace on average 27% of N fertility programs.
 
Envita is the only N-fixing bacteria to work from within the plant cells to fix N all season long
 
5) How do you see the opportunity from the growing trend in sustainable agriculture for Envita adoption?

Productivity is the foundation of agriculture - the issue with sustainability/regenerative agriculture is farmers are often left to choose between productivity or sustainability.  With Envita - they can have both. 
 
Given the growing awareness and understanding of the long-term environmental impacts of applied N fertilizers on environmentally sensitive watersheds - a comprehensive case can be made for incorporating Envita into nitrogen management plans in order to reduce reliance on applied synthetic nitrogen. Fertilizer regulations and restrictions are already in place in some US states and we’ll see more of this debate across North America. State by state approval processes are evolving as our collective knowledge of biologicals evolve.
 
Having said all that, agriculture will always be about yield and productivity – natural products like Envita that drive productivity while delivering environmental benefits will become more important in a world increasingly governed by social acceptance. 
 
We were recently recognized by Fast Company’s annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2020 as the only naturally-occurring, food-grade microbe to help farmers meet increasing global demand on our food supply while helping combat dependence on nitrogen-based fertilizers. This honour really validates for us that true innovation addresses two equally important needs - in this case maintaining food production levels, while addressing the need for sustainable farm practices. 
 
6) What is the most exciting thing going on with Envita today?
 
We are in the middle of the 2020 spring planting season right now, so we are busy with seeding across the American Midwest.  Compared to 2019, we have already doubled our sales and acres. 
 
Beyond the growth of our in-furrow business we have just launched a foliar application of Envita in time for tank mixing with post-emergent herbicides in corn. We currently have foliar registration for Envita in 33 states including most of the major corn producing states. Until now only growers who can apply in-furrow could use Envita, which represents roughly 20% of the US corn market. Foliar application opens up access to millions of acres of corn production this year. 
 
7) Where do you see your company/Envita five years from now? Will the production further increase to meet growing demand? Do you plan to market Envita in more regions? 

As we look into the future of agriculture and food production, we face a number of challenges that seem impossible to address on their own. The need to feed a rapidly growing global population is exacerbated by a decreasing mass of arable land for crop production and the negative impact large scale production can have on our environment.
 
We can’t simply produce less food in the interest of the environment. At the same time, we can’t survive and thrive long into the future if our land, air and water supply continue to absorb the impact of intensive production practices. The universal use of nitrogen fertilizer in modern agriculture is required to optimize crop productivity. Until now, farmers wanting to reduce their use of nitrogen fertilizer would also be looking at a reduction in yield potential – use less to produce less – a solution that addresses only half of the equation.
 
In terms of our production, we will continue to meet the growing worldwide demand for Envita and in the future will be working on new dry formulations that will extend product-shelf life and pave the way for seed treatments. At the core of everything is connecting with farmers who want to improve yields and reduce overall crop expenses. 
 
As we continue to innovate we also are protecting our intellectual property with patent applications being granted and new patents being filed in North America and around the world.  
 
We are also looking forward to Canadian farmers having access to Envita. Currently, we are awaiting our registration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with the goal of commercial availability by the 2021 growing season.
 

Source: AgroNews

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