CIMMYT: New innovative crops could significantly reduce agriculture’s climate change impact and environmental footprint

CIMMYT: New innovative crops could significantly reduce agriculture’s climate change impact and environmental footprint
07 June 2024

The growing global population nearing 10 billion underscores the vital role of fertilizers in sustaining agricultural production. However, the extensive use of fertilizers is now posing significant environmental challenges, particularly in terms of nitrogen leaching and greenhouse gas emissions. To mitigate these issues, a groundbreaking research initiative, CropSustaiN, led by CIMMYT and supported by a grant of up to USD 21.1 million from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, aims to revolutionize nitrogen management in wheat cultivation. At the heart of CropSustaiN lies biological nitrification inhibition (BNI), a natural process harnessing genetic strategies to reduce soil nitrification. By leveraging the innate ability of plants to suppress nitrification, BNI offers a promising avenue to decrease reliance on synthetic fertilizers, thereby mitigating environmental stressors without compromising yield or soil health. Unlike synthetic inhibitors, BNI presents a scalable and cost-effective solution, potentially reducing nitrogen fertilizer usage by 20%. The initiative, endorsed by Claus Felby of the Novo Nordisk Foundation and Bram Govaerts of CIMMYT, aims to validate BNI efficacy across diverse climates and integrate this technology into mainstream agricultural practices. By incorporating genes from wild crop relatives with superior nitrogen use efficiency, CropSustaiN seeks to develop wheat varieties requiring significantly less nitrogen fertilizer, thereby promoting sustainable agricultural practices globally. CropSustaiN represents a paradigm shift in agricultural innovation, with the Novo Nordisk Foundation's inclusive approach ensuring accessibility of developed seeds to all farmers. Supported by an ecosystem of research partners, including CIMMYT and various universities, the initiative holds the potential to transform global agricultural practices, advancing both environmental sustainability and food security.

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