Enhancement of Microbial Biofertilizers for Sustainable Food Systems

Nutrient requirements for agricultural crops are directly linked to crop production levels and any potential improvement in the scale of biomass yields will necessitate a proportional increase in the demands for essential nutrients. For many crops, nitrogen is one of the most expensive fertilizers based on required quantities and cost. Much of our nitrogen fertilizer production is tied to burning fossil fuels to generate ammonia through the Haber-Bosch process and constitutes a significant portion of our global energy use. The goal of this research project is to expand the application of symbiotic biological nitrogen fixation, as found in crops such as soybeans and alfalfa, to a broader set of plants such as corn and wheat, through the application of biofertilizers. Efforts will include laboratory studies to construct new biofertilizer strains and greenhouse studies to test application of these strains to a range of crops important to Minnesota.

Principal Investigator: Brett Barney, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering

Co-Investigators: Neil Olszewski, Plant Biology; Gary Sands, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering; Craig Sheaffer, Agronomy and Plant Genetics