Novel nitrogen-fixing crops

Nitrogen fixating nodules by Foxy Tigre via Flickr
This solution was shared by PRE-LAUNCH RESEARCH TEAM
14 May 2021

Description of the innovative solution

Closing nutrient loop Collaboration Enzymes Food biodiversity Preservation Regenerative agriculture Waste Water availability

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...

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.

Examples and additional resources

Real-world examples

See this solution in action in different contexts and settings around the world

Additional resources

Learn more about this solution through studies, articles, business cases, and other information

Keeping the nitrogen-fixation dream alive
Scientific paper
This article explores that benefits and challenges of creating crops that can fix nitrogen by themselves.
Shared by PRE-LAUNCH RESEARCH TEAM
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.
Shared by PRE-LAUNCH RESEARCH TEAM
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.
Shared by PRE-LAUNCH RESEARCH TEAM

Contacts

Connect to others working on and with this solution around the world

No contacts yet.

Pathways to uptake

Engage with our “backcasting tool” to imagine and design “pathways to uptake” for this solution in your setting.

This process involves defining a future vision of this solution being used in your context, and then working “backwards” to identify necessary steps to achieve this vision by 2030. Going through this exercise as an individual or with a team can help to clarify the WHAT/WHEN/HOW of moving a solution (or package of solutions) towards having major impact. We hope these pathways will inspire outside-of-the-box thinking, creative approaches, and actionable concrete steps to move ideas into action.

Pathway builder
image