The Greener Revolution –
A new nitrogen-fixing technology has been developed which will help transform agriculture. This patented technology enables all crops to take up nitrogen from the atmosphere rather than from expensive and potentially environmentally damaging nitrogen based fertilisers.
The benefits are potentially massive: less reliance on nitrogen fertilisers; reduced nitrogen pollution of the environment from the use of nitrogen based fertilisers; and reduced fertiliser costs for the grower. Sustainable agriculture will depend on the greater use of biological nitrogen fixation at a time when more food is needed to feed an increasing population.
Nitrogen fixation, the process by which nitrogen is converted to ammonia, is vital for plants to survive and grow. However, only a very small number of plants, most notably legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) have the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere with the help of nitrogen fixing bacteria. Most have to obtain nitrogen from the soil, and for a huge proportion of crops currently being grown across the world, this means a reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.
Professor Edward Cocking, Director of The University of Nottingham’s Centre for Crop Nitrogen Fixation, has developed a unique method to put nitrogen-fixing bacteria into the cells of plant roots. His major breakthrough came when he found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar-cane which he found could intracellularly colonise all major crop plants. This ground-breaking development potentially provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen. The implications for agriculture are enormous as this new technology can provide much of the plant’s nitrogen needs.
A leading world expert in nitrogen and plant science, Professor Cocking has long recognised that there is a critical need to reduce nitrogen pollution caused by nitrogen based fertilisers. Nitrate pollution is a major problem as is also the pollution of the atmosphere by ammonia and oxides of nitrogen.
In addition, nitrate pollution is a health hazard and also causes oxygen-depleted ‘dead zones’ in our waterways and oceans. A recent study estimates that that the annual cost of damage caused by nitrogen pollution across Europe is £60 billion ‐ £280 billion a year (Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, UK – March 2011).
Speaking about the nitrogen fixation technology, which is known as N-Fix, Professor Cocking said: “Helping plants to naturally obtain the nitrogen they need is a key aspect of World Food Security. The world needs to unhook itself from its ever increasing reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertilisers produced from fossil fuels with its high economic costs, its pollution of the environment and its high energy costs.”
N-Fix is neither genetic modification nor bio-engineering. It is a naturally occurring nitrogen fixing bacteria which takes up and uses nitrogen from the air. Applied to the cells of plants (intra-cellular) via the seed, it provides every cell in the plant with the ability to fix nitrogen. Plant seeds are coated with these bacteria in order to create a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship and naturally produce nitrogen.
N-Fix is a natural nitrogen seed coating that provides a sustainable solution to fertiliser overuse and nitrogen pollution. It is environmentally friendly and can be applied to all crops. Over the last 10 years, The University of Nottingham has conducted a series of extensive research programmes which have established proof of principal of the technology in the laboratory, growth rooms and glasshouses.
The University of Nottingham’s Plant and Crop Sciences Division is internationally acclaimed as a centre for fundamental and applied research, underpinning its understanding of agriculture, food production and quality, and the natural environment. It also has one of the largest communities of plant scientists in the UK.
Dr. Susan Huxtable, Director of Intellectual Property Commercialisation at The University of Nottingham, believes that there is likely to be huge interest in the N-Fix technology. “There is a substantial global market for the N-Fix technology, as it can be applied globally to all crops. N-Fix has the power to transform agriculture, while at the same time offering a significant cost benefit to the grower through the savings that they will make in the reduced costs of fertilisers. It is a great example of how University research can have a world-changing impact.”
The N-Fix technology has been licensed by The University of Nottingham to Azotic Technologies Ltd to develop and commercialise N-Fix globally on its behalf for all crop species. In the commercial world N-Fix know-how is unique to Azotic.
The Azotic management team has significant experience in agriculture, technology development and subsequent commercialisation. Peter Blezard, CEO of Azotic Technologies added: “Agriculture has to change and N-Fix can make a real and positive contribution to that change. It has enormous potential to help feed more people in many of the poorer parts of the world, while at the same time, dramatically reducing the amount of synthetic nitrogen produced in the world.”
The proof of concept has already been demonstrated. The uptake and fixation of nitrogen in a range of crop species has been proven to work in the laboratory and Azotic is now working on field trials in order to produce robust efficacy data. This will be followed by seeking regulatory approval for N-Fix initially in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada and Brazil, with more countries to follow.
It is anticipated that the N-Fix technology will be commercially available within the next two to three years.
For further information please contact:
Peter Blezard – CEO
Tel: Int +44 (0)7764 654416
Allen Sheena - Marketing Director
Tel: Int + 44 (0)20 8446 8000