Novel nitrogen-fixing crops

This solution was shared by PRE-LAUNCH RESEARCH TEAM , 14 May 2021

Print date: 02 October 2022 17:31

Description of the innovative solution

Closing nutrient loop Collaboration Enzymes Food biodiversity Preservation Regenerative agriculture Waste Water availability Crop breeding Agricultural development

Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers have been helping feed the world since the mid 20th century. While some farmers still use manure to fertilize their crops, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are much more efficient and allow for the large-scale production that is needed for the global population. The Haber bosch process which produces these fertilizers uses a lot of energy. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers also lead to a lot of nutrient pollution in aquatic ecosystems. Despite the effectiveness of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in helping ramp up global food production since the mid-20th century, it is clear that their continued use is not sustainable. Novel nitrogen-fixing crops provide us with an opportunity to move away from using these synthetic fertilizers. Scientists are working to create nitrogen-fixing crops. They hope to use the genes from mycorrhiza bacteria that fix nitrogen and transfer this suite of genes into the mitochondria and chloroplasts of crops. This promising technology could greatly help us in combating a myriad of challenges caused by synthetic nitrogen fertilizers without reducing food security (and possibly even improving it). While novel nitrogen-fixing crops hold great potential for climate mitigation and ecological restoration, they will only be effective in doing these things if the technology is made widely available. A clear policy that leads to widespread implementation of nitrogen-fixing crops will be needed to ensure that these crops can be a successful food system solution.

Supply chain segment

Agricultural inputs and primary production practices

Maturity level



Climate mitigation Soil health Reducing biodiversity loss Reducing pollution

SDG target

SDG 2: Zero Hunger SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure SDG 13: Climate Action SDG 14: Life Below Water


Urban Peri-urban Rural Marine/Coastal

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Additional resources

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Keeping the nitrogen-fixation dream alive
Scientific paper
This article explores that benefits and challenges of creating crops that can fix nitrogen by themselves.
Future Prospects for Cereals That Fix Nitrogen
Scientific paper
This article dives into how the technology of nitrogen fixing cereal crops is being developed and briefly touches on their importance in creating a sustainable future.
Too much of a good thing
Scientific paper
This article summaries the damage done by excessive addition of nitrogen and analyzes the cost and benefits of anthropogenic nitrogen production.


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