growing cereal crops with less fertilizer
Eduardo Blumwald, right, of the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, with postdoctoral researcher Akhilesh Yadav, and rice they and others on the Blumwald team modified to use nitrogen more efficiently. Credit: Trina Kleist/UC Davis

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found a way to reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizers needed to grow cereal crops. The discovery could save farmers in the United States billions of dollars annually in fertilizer costs while also benefiting the environment.

The research comes out of the lab of Eduardo Blumwald, a distinguished professor of plant sciences, who has found a new pathway for cereals to capture the nitrogen they need to grow.

The discovery could also help the environment by reducing nitrogen pollution, which can lead to contaminated water resources, increased greenhouse gas emissions and human health issues. The study was published in the journal Plant Biotechnology.

Nitrogen is key to plant growth, and agricultural operations depend on chemical fertilizers to increase productivity. But much of what is applied is lost, leaching into soils and groundwater. Blumwald’s research could create a sustainable alternative.

“Nitrogen fertilizers are very, very expensive,” Blumwald said. “Anything you can do to eliminate that cost is important. The problem is money on one side, but there are also the harmful effects of nitrogen on the environment.”

A new pathway to natural fertilizer

Blumwald’s research centers on increasing the conversion of nitrogen gas in the air into ammonium by soil bacteria—a process known as nitrogen fixation.

Legumes such as peanuts and soybeans have root nodules that can use nitrogen-fixing bacteria to provide ammonium to the plants. Cereal plants like rice and wheat don’t have that capability and must rely on taking in inorganic nitrogen, such as ammonia and nitrate, from fertilizers in the soil.

“If a plant can produce chemicals that make soil bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen gas, we could modify the plants to produce more of these chemicals,” Blumwald said. “These chemicals will induce soil bacterial nitrogen fixation and the plants will use the ammonium formed, reducing the amount of fertilizer used.”

Blumwald’s team used chemical screening and genomics to identify compounds in rice plants that enhanced the nitrogen-fixing activity of the bacteria.

Then they identified the pathways generating the chemicals and used gene editing technology to increase the production of compounds that stimulated the formation of biofilms. Those biofilms contain bacteria that enhanced nitrogen conversion. As a result, nitrogen-fixing activity of the bacteria increased, as did the amount of ammonium in the soil for the plants.

“Plants are incredible chemical factories,” he said. “What this could do is provide a sustainable alternative agricultural practice that reduces the use of excessive nitrogen fertilizers.”

The pathway could also be used by other plants. A patent application on the technique has been filed by the University of California and is pending.

Dawei Yan, Hiromi Tajima, Howard-Yana Shapiro, Reedmond Fong and Javier Ottaviani from UC Davis contributed to the research paper, as did Lauren Cline from Bayer Crop Science. Ottaviani is also a research associate at Mars Edge. More information: Dawei Yan et al, Genetic modification of flavone biosynthesis in rice enhances biofilm formation of soil diazotrophic bacteria and biological nitrogen fixation, Plant Biotechnology Journal (2022). DOI: 10.1111/pbi.13894 Journal information: Plant Biotechnology Journal

Provided by UC Davis Citation: Growing cereal crops with less fertilizer (2022, August 5) retrieved 5 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-cereal-crops-fertilizer.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

TECH NEWS RELATED

China sweeps up 12,000 crypto-related social media accounts in fresh clean-up campaign targeting banned digital assets

Chinese authorities are targeting online discussions and the promotion of cryptocurrencies, the country’s internet regulator said, in a new campaign launched since banning the trading of the digital assets last year The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered social media platforms to terminate 12,000 cryptocurrency-related accounts, the internet ...

View more: China sweeps up 12,000 crypto-related social media accounts in fresh clean-up campaign targeting banned digital assets

Bartending Robot Makes Drinks, Remembers What You Like

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use. (Photo: Rossi et al/ACM DL)Researchers in Italy have created a bartending robot that can shake up cocktails, chat with customers, and remember people’s individual tastes all at the same time. Built by electrical engineers at ...

View more: Bartending Robot Makes Drinks, Remembers What You Like

Bats communicate and work together for more efficient foraging

Common noctule bat with GPS tag. Credit: Manuel Roeleke/Universität Potsdam Social hunting strategies are already well documented in many animal species when prey is distributed in an unpredictable way across the landscape. In a new research paper, Manuel Roeleke and his team from the University of Potsdam and the ...

View more: Bats communicate and work together for more efficient foraging

Three papers highlight results of record 1.3 megajoule yield experiment

On the one-year anniversary of achieving a yield of more than 1.3 megajoules at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility, the scientific results of this record experiment have been published in three peer-reviewed papers: one in Physical Review Letters and two in Physical Review E. This stylized image shows a cryogenic target ...

View more: Three papers highlight results of record 1.3 megajoule yield experiment

Creating more environmentally friendly, heat resistant and transparent plastics

Graphical abstract. Credit: Journal of the American Chemical Society (2022). DOI: 10.1021/jacs.2c02569 Researchers in Japan have developed a new technique for creating polymers. This discovery is expected to lead to the development of plastics that are more environmentally friendly, heat resistant, and transparent. Previous research, such as that performed ...

View more: Creating more environmentally friendly, heat resistant and transparent plastics

Xiaomi Mix Fold 2 foldable smartphone launching a day after Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked

Xiaomi is looking to one-up Samsung with a big foldable smartphone announcement of its own a day after the Galaxy Unpacked event. The Xiaomi Mix Fold 2 is dropping in China this week, on August 11 alongside the Xiaomi Buds 4 Pro and Pad 5 Pro. Xiaomi’s upcoming event will ...

View more: Xiaomi Mix Fold 2 foldable smartphone launching a day after Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked

Chipmaker Micron tempers forecast as demand weakness deepens

ETtechMemory chipmaker Micron Technology cut its current quarter revenue forecast on Tuesday and warned of a negative free cash flow in the following quarter as demand for chips used in personal computers and smartphones continues to drop.Revenue for the fourth quarter may come in at or below the low end ...

View more: Chipmaker Micron tempers forecast as demand weakness deepens

SoftBank steps up asset sales from sinking portfolio

ETtechSoftBank Group Corp is accelerating asset sales after its flagship Vision Fund unit booked nearly $50 billion in losses in just six months, but Chief Executive Masayoshi Son faces narrowing options and slumping valuations, analysts said.Son said on Monday that he is in discussions to sell asset manager Fortress without ...

View more: SoftBank steps up asset sales from sinking portfolio

Indian fintech firms will handle $1 trillion in assets by 2030: report

Moonshadow: China Mulls Fleet of Orbital Telescopes

Fitbit is ditching one of its oldest features in October

China starts to build its second home-grown large cruise ship

How to Change or Remove User Account Image in Windows 11

UK tech can boost global reach with Israel trade deal, industry figures say

How to build a strong social media brand with zero design skills

Ear buddies Huawei stirs the audiophile market with FreeBuds Pro 2

Critical Research Under Way on Space Station Benefiting Humans on and off Earth

Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea firm up plans to tap into emerging gaming and e-sports segment

Nobody Seems to Care About Netflix’s Games

iOS 16 finally brings battery percentage in the iPhone’s status bar

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News