The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently agreed to provide the John Innes Centre with roughly $9.8 million (about €8 million) so that scientists can work on developing self-fertilizing crops.
Professor Oldroyd, one of the leading researchers for this study, argues that it is possible for our present day crops to be transformed to such an extent that farmers will no longer need to use store-bought fertilizers, provided that the scientists succeed in initiating a symbiosis between crops and a nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Apparently, this research is first and foremost aimed at helping the people who live in developing countries, where farmers simply cannot afford to buy fertilizers. It is expected that all cereal crops will benefit from this discovery.
As well as this, it is their desire to have plants deliver this technology through their seeds, so as to ease the farmers' access to it. To put it bluntly: those who wish to have self-fertilizing crops need only borrow or buy some seeds from their neighbors.
As he explains, this symbiosis would allow cereals to absorb nitrogen from their surrounding environment – from air, more precisely –, which in turn would lead to richer and better yields.
Moreover, given the fact that laboratory-made nitrogen fertilizers are known to negatively impact on the natural world, it can be argued that this new technology will also be note-worthy from an environmental standpoint.
John Innes Centre's official website quotes professor Oldroyd, who supposedly argued that “A new methof of nitrogen fertilization is needed for the African Green Revolution.”
He further explains how “Delivering new technology within the seeds of crops has many benefits for farmers as well as the environment, such as self-reliance and equity.”
Bearing in mind the fact that sustainable development is a pressing issue in modern society, it is our hope that professor Oldroyd and his team succeed in achieving what they set out to achieve, as such a project in bound to help both human society and the environment.