In April this year, a field test of genetically modified (transgenic) barley and improved by genetic modification will be planted. Research evaluates whether improved interactions of crops with natural soil fungi promote more sustainable food production. Scientists hope that the test results will demonstrate ways to reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers, which have significant benefits in improving soil health and contributing to more sustainable and equitable approaches to food production.
The experiment is being conducted by researchers at the Center for Crop Science, a joint venture between the University of Cambridge and the Agricultural Research Institute NIAB. It will be evaluated whether improving crop interactions with natural soil fungi will help in more efficient absorption of water with nitrogen and phosphorus from the soil. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two most important essential nutrients for crop production, which are often provided by synthetic fertilizers.
Although the use of synthetic fertilizers increases crop productivity, overuse in high- and middle-income countries causes environmental pollution, which reduces biodiversity and additionally creates greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, in low-income countries, fertilizers are often too expensive or unavailable to local farmers, restricting food production. It contributes to both hunger and poverty because in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, most people rely on agriculture to support their families.
“Working with natural and beneficial microbial associations in plants has the potential to change or greatly reduce the need for mineral fertilizers, while contributing to more sustainable and equitable approaches to crop production while improving soil health,” the professor said. Giles Oldroyd, Russell R Geiger Professor of Crop Sciences, who presides.
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