Scientist try to research GM crops need no fertilizer
Jul. 17, 2012
Researchers in the United Kingdom are to receive millions in funding from Bill Gates to see whether plants can be tweaked to make their own fertilizers.
Backed by a grant from the Gates Foundation, a team at the John Innes Centre in Norwich will try to create genetically modified (GM) cereal crops that can recruit bacteria to help them grow.
The five-year project will cost £6.4 million (US$10 million) and will attempt to build a symbiotic relationship between maize (corn) and bacteria that fix nitrogen into the soil. In many areas, farmers use nitrogen fertilizers to increase their crop yields. Engineering a plant that could, in effect, produce its own fertilizer could both save farmers a significant amount of money and help to reduce the environmental damage from fertilizers ending up as pollutants in water ways.
“We have developed a pretty good understanding of how legumes such as peas and beans evolved the ability to recruit soil bacteria to access the nitrogen they need,” said Giles Oldroyd, a plant scientist at the centre, in a statement. “Even the most primitive symbiotic relationship with bacteria benefited the plant, and this is where we hope to start in cereals.”
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