Fertilizers used for growing crops can be expensive and produce negative environmental impacts. But the results of a study published in Nature Microbiology could open the door to reducing fertilizer usage by increasing biological nitrogen fixation.

Study co-author John Peters, director of Washington State University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry, uses legumes as a model to investigate how metabolic processes in bacteria create and use energy. He and his colleagues are trying to replicate the symbiotic relationship that exists between crops such as chickpeas and lentils and the bacteria growing within their root tissues. The bacteria take nitrogen from the air and convert it to ammonia, a natural fertilizer that the legume crops use as energy to grow.

The process works through a series of signals exchanged between legumes and microbes, in which chemicals given off by the crops let the microbes know that the legume plants need fixed oxygen. The microbes also release signals letting the plants know they need carbon.

The researchers are working to produce a synthetic version of the exchange and have identified and transferred a group of genes into plant-colonizing bacteria that enable nitrogen fixation. The team’s goal is to add the gene groups into other bacteria. If successful, the process could reduce the need for human-made fertilizers in the production of wheat, soybeans, and corn, as well as other food crops.

“This project is aimed at increasing food production and helping feed the world,” said Peters in a press release. “Transforming food production to work without nitrogen-based fertilizers could be a huge development in underdeveloped countries. Adding these microbes would be like pouring kombucha on roots.”

More from IFTNEXT right arrow

A new approach to reducing salt while maintaining taste

The dangers of a high-sodium diet have been well documented, but a new technology devised by scientists from Washington State University could help reduce sodium in processed foods while retaining taste and texture.

Sucralose–carbohydrate combo may affect insulin sensitivity

A study found that people who drank beverages that contained the low-calorie sweetener sucralose did experience metabolic problems and issues with neural responses but only when the beverage was formulated with both sucralose and a tasteless sugar (maltodextrin).

Manipulating photosynthesis for food security

British scientists have gained new insights into the compound in plants that plays a vital role in the natural process through which plants grow.

New rapid tests for botulinum toxin

In the food industry, botulinum toxin is associated with a severe form of food poisoning caused by improperly preserved food. Researchers have developed a technology that addresses the role of botulinum toxin in both food and cosmetic applications.

More from IFT right arrow

Foodborne Illness Can Induce Autoimmune Illnesses

The article describes how seven pathogens cause 90% of foodborne illness and how foodborne illness can lead to autoimmune diseases.

A Piña Colada Tastes Better on a (Virtual) Beach

During IFT19, an interactive event allowed participants to be immersed in a virtual environment to test whether their surroundings would alter their liking of beverages.

New Bioprocesses May Reduce Cost to Produce Low-Calorie Sweetener

Separate research from the University of Illinois and Tufts University have examined new bioprocesses for producing tagatose in a more cost-effective manner.

Food Architecture: Building A Better Food Supply

Food scientists are using structural design principles to improve the healthiness, sustainability, and quality of the modern food system.

Latest News right arrow

Amazon unveils ‘smart’ shopping cart

According to the Associated Press, Amazon has debuted a new smart shopping cart called the Dash Cart.

Danone, Brightseed partner to use AI to discover new health benefits in plants

Danone North America and Brightseed, a biosciences company and developer of artificial intelligence (AI) that maps novel plant nutrients to human health, have announced a new partnership.

USDA expands E. coli testing in additional raw beef products

The USDA has announced plans to expand its routine verification testing or six Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli that are adulterants, in addition to the adulterant Escherichia coli O157:H7, to ground beef, bench trim, and raw ground beef components other than raw beef manufacturing trimmings for samples collected at official establishments.

Motif FoodWorks, University of Guelph form research collaboration

Motif FoodWorks, an ingredient company serving the plant-based food market, has announced an exclusive research collaboration and license option with the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

New USDA rule updates plant biotechnology regulations

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced a final rule updating and modernizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) biotechnology regulations under the Plant Protection Act.