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

December 12th, 2019 / Genetic Literacy Project, US

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 …

E. coli bacteria engineered to eat carbon dioxide

November 30th, 2019 / Nature, UK

E. coli is on a diet. Researchers have created a strain of the lab workhorse bacterium — full name Escherichia coli — that grows by consuming carbon dioxide instead of sugars or other organic molecules.

The achievement is a milestone, say scientists, because it drastically alters the inner workings of one of biology’s most …

Farm animals are the next big antibiotic resistance threat

September 20th, 2019 / Wired, US

Across the world, the antibiotics that farmers use to prevent illness in their animals are losing effectiveness as bacteria develop antibiotic resistance. According to new research, it’s a huge problem, one that’s been masked by a longstanding focus on the risk that resistant bacteria pose to humans instead.

This trend in the animal world carries a double …

Scientists want to replace pesticides with bacteria

April 19th, 2018 / Bloomberg, US

Fresh snow coats the sidewalks outside Indigo Ag Inc.’s Boston offices, but inside the temperature is calibrated to mimic spring in the Midwest. Hundreds of almost identical soy seedlings sit beneath high-intensity arc lamps, basking in the artificially sunny 60F weather.
The plants aren’t destined to stay identical for long. “We …

How soil dwelling bacteria adapt to richer or poorer conditions

June 30th, 2017 / Phys.org

Scientists have identified a unique mechanism that the soil dwelling bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens uses to effectively exploit nutrients in the root environment.
The breakthrough offers multiple new applications, according to the team of John Innes Centre scientists behind the discovery: for the study of human pathogens, for synthetic biology, and for …

Discovery shows how PHR1, a key switch protein, controls plant response to low levels of phosphate

March 23rd, 2017 / ISAAA

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have identified a key genetic switch that helps soil bacteria that lives on and inside plant roots to harvest phosphate, a vital nutrient for plant yield that is limited in global supply. The scientists show precisely how PHR1, a …

Soil bacteria that could improve seeds, roots and antibiotic treatments

January 12th, 2017 / Phys.org

“This discovery may not only lead to the creation of a protective coating for roots and seeds to prevent disease, but it may also provide exciting new strategies for improving the effectiveness of antibiotic treatments,” explains Marie Elliot of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research. See …

Could African agriculture leapfrog harmful pesticides by using plant microbiomes?

October 20th, 2016 / Afk Insider

In Africa, where there is an overwhelming need to improve soil health and crop productivity, microbial science in agriculture is just getting started. Researchers believe there’s a revolution in finding alternatives to pesticides and artificial fertilizers that can improve African farm productivity.
Scientists are investigating the plant microbiome — the billions …

Will microbes save agriculture?

June 13th, 2016 / LA Times, US

Right under our feet – that’s where David Perry believes the next agricultural revolution will come from – the millions of unseen microbes in soil that play a crucial but complicated role in the well-being of plants. Perry believes that he can repackage beneficial bacteria and fungi as something akin …