Science

Engineered ammonia-producing bacteria could replace crop fertilizers

Engineered ammonia-producing b...
The engineered strains of Azotobacter vinelandii have already been tested on rice plants
The engineered strains of Azotobacter vinelandii have already been tested on rice plants
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The engineered strains of Azotobacter vinelandii have already been tested on rice plants
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The engineered strains of Azotobacter vinelandii have already been tested on rice plants

Ammonia is commonly used in commercial crop fertilizers, which in turn can pollute waterways when they run off of fields. New research, however, suggests that engineered bacteria could one day take the place of such fertilizers.

In a study led by Asst. Prof. Florence Mus, scientists at Washington State University genetically engineered new strains of a soil-inhabiting bacteria by the name of Azotobacter vinelandii. While the bacteria was already known to convert ambient nitrogen gas into ammonia, the new strains are able to consistently produce and excrete ammonia at much higher concentrations, regardless of environmental conditions.

In lab tests, when the modified A. vinelandii were added to soil in which rice plants were growing, the plants were observed taking up ammonia produced by the bacteria.

The researchers are now working on developing additional types of A. vinelandii, which produce ammonia at different rates. Specific strains could then be used on specific crop species, based on the plants' ammonia requirements.

In this way, it would be ensured that the plants would use up all the ammonia, so no excess would be left over to run out of the soil and enter nearby waterways. Additionally, farmers wouldn't be paying to use extra fertilizer that wasn't even needed.

"Successful widespread adoption of these biofertilizers for farming would reduce pollution, provide sustainable ways of managing the nitrogen cycle in soil, lower production costs and increase profit margins for farmers and enhance sustainable food production by improving soil fertility," said Mus.

A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Source: American Society for Microbiology

5 comments
5 comments
drhall
Dr. Boris Levensky (including Dr. Faust and Dr. Hall) championed a superior Humate protocol. while regional humates differ, each support vast soil nutrient uptake and additional nutient suuport. Nutritional analysis (27) vary with humates from different locations. Humates used in the case studies at the end of this paper contained the following: Protein, Ash, Fiber, Carbohydrates, Nitrogen, Moisture, Ammonia, Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid, and trace minerals (ppm) in chelated form such as: Antimony Holmium Neodymium Ruthenium Thallium
AE
Wow. What could possibly go wrong?
Bucky
These bacteria are not the symbiotic bacteria within root nodules of nitrogen fixing plants like legumes etc., but living free in the soil, right?
How are they going to confine this bacteria to the specific plant that would benefit from it?
For rice it may work, because that is planted year after year on the same plot of land.
Legumes on the other hand won't grow well in soil with lot's of nitrogen, just like half of nature.
This is very scary.











Ken Gallaher
Sounds like another GE pipe dream.
windykites
Could these GM bacteria be used to generate Ammonia more easily than the Haber-Bosch process? No heat/no pressure. Ammonia can power ICEs.