Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
AgriGenomics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

Major Grant from Gates Foundation to UK Center to Develop Self-Fertilizing Crops for the Developing World

Published: Monday, July 16, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, July 16, 2012
Bookmark and Share
The John Innes Centre in UK will lead a $9.8m research project to investigate whether it is possible to initiate a symbiosis between cereal crops and bacteria. The symbiosis could help cereals access nitrogen from the air to improve yields.

Major investment to persuade bacteria to help cereals self-fertilise

JULY 15, 2012

The John Innes Centre will lead a $9.8m research project to investigate whether it is possible to initiate a symbiosis between cereal crops and bacteria. The symbiosis could help cereals access nitrogen from the air to improve yields.

The five-year research project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, could have most immediate benefit for subsistence farmers.

“During the Green Revolution, nitrogen fertilisers helped triple cereal yields in some areas,” said Professor Giles Oldroyd from JIC. “But these chemicals are unaffordable for small-scale farmers in the developing world.”

As a result, yields are 15 to 20 per cent of their potential. Nitrogen fertilisers also come with an environmental cost. Making and applying them contributes half the carbon footprint of agriculture and causes environmental pollution.

“A new method of nitrogen fertilisation is needed for the African Green Revolution,” said Professor Oldroyd. “Delivering new technology within the seed of crops has many benefits for farmers as well as the environment, such as self-reliance and equity,” said Professor Oldroyd.

The new research will investigate the possibility of engineering cereals to associate with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and of delivering this technology through the seed.

If it is found to work, farmers would be able to share the technology by sharing seed. And the research opens the door to the use of grasses as rotational crops to enhance soil nitrogen.

“We’re excited about the long-term potential of this research to transform the lives of small farmers who depend on agriculture for their food and livelihoods,” said Katherine Kahn, senior program officer of Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  “We need innovation for farmers to increase their productivity in a sustainable way so that they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty.  Improving access to nitrogen could dramatically boost the crop yields of farmers in Africa.”

The focus of the investigation will be maize, the most important staple crop for small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Parallel studies in the wild grass Setaria viridis, which has a smaller genome and shorter life cycle, will speed up the rate of discovery. Discoveries will be applicable to all cereal crops including wheat, barley and rice.

The research will start by attempting to engineer in maize the ability to sense nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria. This may be enough to activate a symbiosis that provides some fixed nitrogen. Even slight increases could improve yields for farmers who do not have access to fertilisers.

“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 Professor Oldroyd. ”Even the most primitive symbiotic relationship with bacteria benefited the plant, and this is where we hope to start in cereals.”

In the most basic symbiosis, bacteria are housed in simple swellings on the root of the plant, providing the low oxygen environment needed. In more highly evolved legumes, the plant produces a specialised organ, the nodule, to house bacteria.

Bacteria can infect the plant through cracks or through more complex tunnels built by the plant called infection threads. As the complexity of the interaction increases, so does the efficiency with which bacteria fix nitrogen for the plant.

“In the long term, we anticipate that the research will follow the evolutionary path, building up the level of complexity and improving the benefits to the plant,” said Professor Oldroyd.

The project will also help highlight where more research is needed. It will run in parallel to ongoing research funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council into how nitrogen fixation works in legumes. It will also run in parallel to an existing Gates-funded project, N2Africa, to improve nitrogen management in African farming systems more immediately.

Contacts 

JIC Press Office 

Zoe Dunford, zoe.dunford@jic.ac.uk, 01603 255111

Andrew Chapple, andrew.chapple@jic.ac.uk, 01603 251490

The John Innes Centre, www.jic.ac.uk, is a world-leading research centre based on the Norwich Research Park http://www.norwichresearchpark.com. The JIC’s mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, and to apply its knowledge to benefit agriculture, human health and well-being, and the environment. JIC delivers world class bioscience outcomes leading to wealth and job creation, and generating high returns for the UK economy. JIC  is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,900+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,200+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

“Growing” Medicines in Plants Requires new Regulations
Scientists say amending an EU directive on GMOs could help stimulate innovation in making cheaper vaccines, pharmaceuticals and organic plastics using plants.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
New Method for Associating Genetic Variation With Crop Traits
A new technique will allow plant breeders to introduce valuable crop traits even without access to the full genome sequence of that crop.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Genomics unlocks key to Mendel's pea flowers
John Innes Centre scientists have helped discover the key to one of biology's most well-known experiments - the gene that controls pea flower colour, used by Gregor Mendel in his initial studies of inheritance.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
UK: Norfolk GM potato trial withstands blight
A trial plot of genetically-modified potatoes at Norfolk's John Innes Centre has withstood five days of intense late-blight infection.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Scientific News
New Method Promises to Speed Development of Food Crops
A new study addresses a central challenge of transgenic plant development: how to reliably evaluate whether genetic material has been successfully introduced.
Where Cancer Cells May Begin
Scientists use fruit fly genetics to understand how things could go wrong in cancer.
Key Enzyme in Pierce’s Disease Grapevine Damage Uncovered
UC Davis plant scientists have identified an enzyme that appears to play a key role in the insect-transmitted bacterial infection of grapevines with Pierce’s disease, which annually costs California’s grape and wine industries more than $100 million.
Bacteria Attack Lignin with Enzymatic Tag Team
Team from Rice, University of Wisconsin-Madison shows how nature handles lignin.
Milestone Resource in Wheat Research Now Available for Download
Leading on from The Genome Analysis Centre’s (TGAC) previous announcement of their new bread wheat genome assembly, the landmark resource is now publically available to download at the European Bioinformatics Institute’s (EMBL-EBI) Ensembl database for full analysis.
Nano-Reactor for the Production of Hydrogen Biofuel
Combining bacterial genes and virus shell creates a highly efficient, renewable material used in generating power from water.
Cleaning Wastewater with Pond Scum
A blob of algae scooped from a fountain on South Street almost two years ago, has seeded a crop of the green stuff that Drexel University researchers claim is more effective at treating wastewater than many of the processes employed in municipal facilities today.
Global Reductions in Mercury Emissions Should Lead to Billions in Economic Benefits for U.S.
Benefits from international regulations may double those of domestic policy.
A Worm with Five Faces
Max Planck scientists discover new roundworm species on Réunion.
A Gene for New Species is Identified
A University of Utah-led study identified a long-sought “hybrid inviability gene” responsible for dead or infertile offspring when two species of fruit flies mate with each other.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,900+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,200+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!