talking biotech

Podcast: How nitrogen-fixing bacteria can cut fertilizer use 30-50%

, | December 11, 2019
HOST OVERVIEW
Kevin Folta: University of Florida plant geneticist Kevin Folta launched Talking Biotech in 2015.    More details

In the early 20th century, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch revolutionized agriculture. The two German chemists developed a technique, now known as the Haber-Bosch process, that converts nitrogen from the air into ammonia, which can be used to fertilize the crops we all rely on for sustenance.  The discovery led to a dramatic increase in food production without expanding the amount of farmland that otherwise would have been needed to feed billions of people.

But this agricultural revolution came at a serious cost. Excess synthetic fertilizer can run off farms and into waterways, taking a severe toll on the environment. Fortunately, new discoveries are fueling the development of fertilizers poised to reduce this environmental damage without compromising our ability to grow increasing amounts of food. These novel products are based on nitrogen-fixing bacteria associated with plants.

Nolan Berg, president of Azotics, joins Talking Biotech host Kevin Folta to discuss the company’s pioneering bacterial strain that actually lives in the crops we grow for food, fixing nitrogen and limiting the need for exogenous fertilizer application. According to the company:

Envita is applied in furrow or as a seed treatment where it quickly establishes itself within the plant, and grows with the plant as it grows …. Envita starts to fix nitrogen very quickly and lasts season long. This provides the plant with an additional source of nitrogen during critical growth periods where nitrogen loss may occur due to environmental conditions.

The product, Berg says, can cut fertilizer use on farms 30-50 percent, depending on the crop it’s applied to. Representing a massive win for consumers, farmers and the environment, this and other bacteria-based fertilizer options cut production costs and contribute to more sustainable farming methods.

 

Nolan Berg is the president of Azotic North America. Follow the company on Twitter:  @AzoticNA

Kevin M. Folta is a professor in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. Follow professor Folta on Twitter @kevinfolta and email your questions to [email protected]

Related article:  Farmers know switch to organic means lower yields, but expect price premium to make up for losses

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