HOME

Bacteria engineered to create fertilizer out of thin air

Next step could be 'nitrogen-fixing' plants that can do the same, reducing the need for fertilizer

Himadri Pakrasi (left), led a team of researchers that has created a bacteria that uses photosynthesis to create oxygen during the day, and at night, uses nitrogen to create chlorophyll for photosynthesis. The team included Michelle Liberton (second from left), Deng Liu and Maitrayee Bhattacharyya-Pakrasi.

In the future, plants will be able to create their own fertilizer. Farmers will no longer need to buy and spread fertilizer for their crops, and increased food production will benefit billions of people around the world, who might otherwise go hungry.


Phthalates -- chemicals used in plastics belonging to the same class as Bisphenol A (BPA) -- can potentially interfere with hormones important for the developing brain.

These statements may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but new research by Washington University in St. Louis scientists show that it might soon be possible to engineer plants to develop their own fertilizer. This discovery could have a revolutionary effect on agriculture and the health of the planet.

The research, led by Himadri Pakrasi, the Glassberg-Greensfelder Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences and director of the International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (InCEES); and Maitrayee Bhattacharyya-Pakrasi, senior research associate in biology, was published in the May/June issue of mBio..

As the mPFC is crucial for high level cognitive functions and reduced cognitive flexibility is observed in developmental disorders such as autism, the research shows how early life phthalate exposure can affect the brain and behavior.

Some answers to the sleep questions have been eye-opening. Bendlin and her colleagues identified 98 people from the registry who recorded their sleep quality and had brain scans. Those who slept badly — measured by such things as being tired during the day — tended to have more A-beta plaques visible on brain imaging, the researchers reported in 2015 in Neurobiology of Aging.

In a different subgroup of 101 people willing to have a spinal tap, poor sleep was associated with biological markers of Alzheimer’s in the spinal fluid, Bendlin’s team reported last year in Neurology. The markers included some related to A-beta plaques, as well as inflammation and the protein tau, which appears in higher levels in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

Creating fertilizer is energy intensive, and the process produces greenhouse gases that are a major driver of climate change. And it's inefficient. Fertilizing is a delivery system for nitrogen, which plants use to create chlorophyll for photosynthesis, but less than 40 percent of the nitrogen in commercial fertilizer makes it to the plant.

News Source