The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to fund a £9.8 million research project to investigate whether it is possible to initiate a symbiosis between cereal crops and bacteria.
Such symbiotic relationships already exist in leguminous plants like clover, peas and beans, and could also help cereals access nitrogen from the air to improve yields.
The new project, the single biggest in UK genetic modification (GM) research, is to be led by the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich, Norfolk. It will investigate the possibility of genetically modifying cereals to associate with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and of delivering the technology through the seed. If that is found to work, it opens the door to the use of grasses as rotational crops to enhance soil nitrogen.
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