Biotech Updates

GM Bacteria Offer Ecological Solution to Synthetic Fertilizer

May 29, 2019

Farmers in the US are testing a new farming approach to increase the productivity of their corn fields.

They are adding genetically modified (GM) bacteria alongside their usual starter fertilizers. The GM bacteria, which has been developed by California-based Pivot Bio, will aid the corn plants to transform nitrogen from the atmosphere into a form that the corn plants can use as fertilizer. 

The symbiotic relationship between bacteria and plants, also known as nitrogen fixation, has always existed. However, agricultural processes disrupted the balance by increasing the synthetic nitrogen in the soil. Synthetic nitrogen is also a common source of water pollution. 

The ultimate goal of the GM bacteria is to replace synthetic nitrogen fertilizer with microbes that can provide adequate nitrogen supply for crops. With this, the researchers found a nitrogen-fixing bacteria that had evolved to live on corn roots and modified its genes so its nitrogen-fixing action remains active even if there's already a large amount of nitrogen in the soil. The nitrogen-enhancing microbe is being offered in 25 states and is the first of its kind available in the market, according to the company.

For more information, read the news article in MPR News.