Norwich’s John Innes Centre is to head up a new research project that it is hoped will lead to increased global crop yields. This work is vital, as in the future we will need greater food resources than ever before to feed the planet’s ever-increasing population.
With the aid of a grant of over $9 million dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the scientists at the John Innes Centre are to undertake cutting-edge work to find a way to create a symbiosis between bacteria and plants. The ‘holy grail’ is to create plants that can take nitrogen from the air, thereby producing their own fertilizer.
Billions of dollars are spent every year on fertilizing crops and for many farmers in the Third World it is completely unaffordable. Production of huge quantities of nitrogen fertilizer also has an environmental cost.
If the scientists were successful, subsistence farming particularly would benefit enormously through greatly increased yields. Third World farmers would also be able to pass the vital seeds onto others, ensuring that the benefits of these plants would soon be realised in higher food production levels in the countries where it is most needed.