So, I was sitting at my kitchen table the other day, reading an article about a break-through in nitrogen fixation. It was so fascinating I was literally gasping as I read, “Oh wow… Oh wow…” What is nitrogen fixation, you may be wondering? And, even more so, what makes it THAT exciting?
Well, first of all, let me say this – you may or may not know that nitrogen is a critical element of plant production. It is a major component of chlorophyll. This is why nitrogen is applied to the soil – to aid in plant growth. And, because nitrogen is relativey inert, applying it directly into the ground has been the most efficient route to boosting its presence in the soil. Until now…
That is where nitrogen fixation comes in. Nitrogen fixation is a process in which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonium. In the past the most common way for atmospheric nitrogen to be passed onto plants was through lightning. (That’s a strange but true fact not many people know: that lightning is good for plants…) But, there is a scientist who has developed a way for plant cells to work in relationship with the nitrogen in the atmosphere so that they can actually capture the nitrogen. The technology to do so has been patented and is called “N-Fix.”
This is where it gets exciting!… N-Fix is not a chemical additive. It is manipulating certain cells so that the plant itself is able to draw nitrogen out of the atmosphere, without being dependent on nitrogen that is applied directly to the soil. Why is that so exciting? Because this technology could reduce applied nitrogen by 50%! Why is THAT so exciting? Well, several reasons. One is it would help with water quality because there would be less nitrogen run-off because there would be less being applied. Also, there would be fewer passes over the soil to apply the nitrogen which would reduce soil compaction. Also, it would save farmers money because they wouldn’t have to pay for the nitrogen or for the fuel to drive the tractor to apply it.
Malcolm Elliott, founding director of The Norman Borlaug Institute for Global Food Security and editor in chief of Agriculture and Food Security, had this to say about this development: “It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this work for the future of humankind.”
In 1970, when Norman Borlaug gave his acceptance speech after receiving the Nobel Prize, he said that microbes, not fertilizer, were the means to feed the world.
And THAT is what’s so exciting about nitrogen fixation!
Have a great day, my friends!