A major new technology has been developed by The University of Nottingham, which enables all of the world’s crops to take nitrogen from the air rather than expensive and environmentally damaging fertilisers. Let’s see what the organic industry has to say about this.
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. The vast majority of plants have to obtain nitrogen from the soil, and for most crops currently being grown across the world, this also means a reliance on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.
His major breakthrough came when he found a specific strain of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in sugar-cane which he discovered 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.1
Speaking about the 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 the N-Fix technology has significant implications for agriculture, she said:
“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.
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 details about the commercial opportunities for N-Fix, visit www.azotictechnologies.com
At some point on the journey toward optimal health, the importance of our food becomes predominant. Nancy Ryersonhas given us a short cut to understanding some of the labels used for our food supply. This partial list will get you started but beware, this could turn into a deeper inquiry into food and food labeling. The good news is that the old adage of “buyer beware” will put you in the category of buyer that has confidence and power when making your food choices.
Shopping at your local farmers market is a great way to support farmers and food practices you believe in — and often pay less for fresher, tastier produce and meat. But all of those little labels poking out of crates of corn and stuck on egg cartons can be confusing or even misleading. Use this glossary for your next shopping trip, and be sure to ask the farmers at the stand if you have any questions about their methods.
Animal Welfare Approved: Available only to family farms, this certification requires that animals be hormone-free and given continuous access to the outdoors. Cattle must be at least 70% grass-fed, and chickens must be cage-free.
Cage-Free: Chickens with this label do not live in cages and have enough space to walk and spread their wings, but don’t generally have access to the outdoors. They may still be put through processes like beak cutting, which is done so chickens in tight quarters don’t violently peck at each other.
Certified Organic: Products deemed “organic” have been given the label by a certification body of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To get it, farms must provide a production plan that the USDA inspects for sustainability. Meat labeled organic comes from animals that were given organic food and access to the outdoors, and organic produce is farmed without synthetic pesticides or chemicals.
Certified Naturally Grown: Some smaller farms choose not to go through the process of becoming certified organic because it can be expensive, opting instead for this label, which has similar guidelines to the USDA organic label. The certification is offered by a grassroots organization formed to help small farms.
Conventional: A farm with this label doesn’t have any special certifications but may have introduced some sustainable practices. Ask the farmer.
Free-Range: This term is regulated by the USDA and means that the farmer must prove that poultry have access to the outdoors, though for an unregulated amount of time. The term does not regulate eggs.
Grass-Fed: To get this label, the majority of an animal’s feed must be from grass or forage. In addition to giving meat a different taste, a “grass-fed” label means that the farm did not have to ship in soy or corn feed, reducing the farm’s carbon footprint. However, the label does not mean that the animals were given the chance to graze outside.
Heirloom and Heritage: These labels, often seen on foods like multicolored tomatoes and twisty squash, refer to varieties of plants and animals that have been passed through the generations to preserve unique colors, textures and tastes. These lines are not mass-produced because they tend to me more delicate.
Locally Grown: Refers to products that come from the surrounding area. There is not a standard for how far away “local” food comes from.
Natural: This refers to a product containing no artificial ingredients or added color that’s only minimally processed, according to the USDA. This claim doesn’t need to be certified, however, and only applies to meat and poultry.
On everything else, natural is often more confusing than helpful. This is one label to definitely be wary of. Marketers have long ago realized the word “natural’ will influence purchases.
On Saturday, January 21, 2012, the second TEDxManhattan â€œChanging the Way We Eatâ€ â€“ an independently organized event, licensed by TED â€“ was held at the Times Center in New York City. TEDxManhattan will explored the issues, the impacts and the innovations happening as we shift to a more sustainable way of eating and farming and help to create connections and unite different areas of the food movement.
Riverside’s Habitat For Humanity ReStore hosted one of 70 global, live stream viewing parties and invited Riverside’s community garden advocates, teachers, gardeners and people who love to eat healthy food to come together, get connected and be inspired about how achievable healthy, safe and delicious food really is.
The presentation byÂ Stephen Ritz, Edible Food Walls and How Theyâ€™re Changing Studentsâ€™ Lives, was truly an amazing tale of inspiration and joy. The talks are short, compelling and potentially life changing. You won’t waste your time if you take a look at some of them. WARNING!! You might not ever look at the food you eat in the same way, but then that’s the point isn’t it?
Thanks to Tedx, Habitat for Humanity and to all my friends and neighbors who will make a difference in the community because of this event.