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Nitrogen: improving on nature

A joint BBSRC and NSF Ideas Lab


  • National Science Foundation (NSF)

Funding total

  • BBSRC: £3.35M
  • NSF: $3.67M

Number of projects funded

Three projects:

  1. Nitroplast: a light-driven, synthetic nitrogen-fixing organelle
    Principal Investigators: Professor Susan Rosser (The University of Edinburgh, UK) and Dr Devaki Bhaya (Carnegie Institution for Science, US)
    Funding: £809k from BBSRC and $1,254k from NSF
  2. Oxygen-Tolerant Nitrogenase
    Principal Investigators: Professor Bill Rutherford (Imperial College London, UK) and Professor Maren Friesen (Michigan State University, US)
    Funding: £825k from BBSRC and $1,279 from NSF
  3. Engineering synthetic symbioses between plants and bacteria to deliver nitrogen to crops
    Principal Investigators: Professor Phil Poole (University of Oxford, UK) and Professor John Peters (Montana State University, US)
    Funding: £1,718k from BBSRC and $2,664 from NSF


To help meet the challenge of sustainably producing enough food for a growing population whilst reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions

Key aims

The key objective of this joint activity was to stimulate innovative and transformative research proposals that will reduce inputs of nitrogen fertilizers to non-leguminous crops whilst maintaining or increasing yield. This could be achieved by:

  1. giving crops the ability to fix their own nitrogen
  2. significantly increasing the nitrogen available to roots by manipulating the rhizosphere; or
  3. significantly improving the crop's nitrogen use efficiency