Nitrogen-fixation: Moving beyond legumes?

Nitrogen-fixation novelty: A biological technology that can make any crop fix nitrogen?

Nitrogen-fixation has long been the domain of leguminous crops (such as beans, peas, alfalfa, etc.). These crops form a symbiotic relationship with the soil bacterium rhizobium, which can take atmospheric nitrogen, which is unavailable to plants, and convert this nitrogen to biologically useful ammonia.

Professor Edward Cocking, Director of the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Crop Nitrogen Fixation, has seemingly developed a method that will allow all crops to be involved in nitrogren-fixation. The University tells the story in this press release.

As reported on, the product of Cocking’s work is N-Fix, which is “applied to the cells of plants (intra-cellular) via the seed” and “provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix nitrogen.”

What are the implications of this new technology (if effective)? The idea is that N-Fix would lower farmer’s reliance on nitrogen fertilizers, which would provide financial and environmental benefits.

So, how does this new technology really work? If you’re feeling ambitious, you might want to explore “Intracellular Colonization of Roots of Arabidopsis and Crop Plants by Gluconacetobacter Diazotrophicus” here (published by Cocking in 2006). Azotic Technologies is working to commercialize the efforts of Professor Cocking; this technology does not yet seem to be available on the marketplace.

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