Project findings show UK wheat yields boosted by root bacteria

By Staff Reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nitrogen Eu Uk

Increased yields of UK wheat varieties through the use of plant growth promoting root bacteria could render chemical fertilizers obsolete, if the preliminary results of a four-year, international study are substantiated.

An EU Framework 6 project, RHIBAC (Rhizobacteria for Reduced Inputs in Wheat), which draws on scientific expertise from international research groups, claims to have successfully increased wheat yields using rhizobacteria, according to a report on agriculture news monitor Stackyard.

High levels of chemical fertilisers, such as ammonium nitrate, when applied to wheat and other arable crops, have allowed vastly increased yields. However, chemical fertilisers are becoming increasingly expensive, and can contribute to a range of environmental problems, in the EU and elsewhere.

As a result, RHIBAC was established four years ago to investigate the potential of rhizobacteria, which establish themselves among the root systems of plants, to boost plant growth and eventually replace chemical fertilizers.

RHIBAC project leader, Professor Nicolaus von Wirén, at the team’s latest annual gathering, said the researchers are excited about the progress made over the past four years in bringing the promise of these plant growth promoting bacteria closer to commercial reality for European cereal growers.

UK growers, using rhizobacteria, could potentially replace 50 kg/ha of applied nitrogen in their wheat production to reduce fertiliser bills and greenhouse gas emissions, according to their findings.

Moreover, he said that the team has developed a far greater understanding of the way these potentially valuable soil microbes work and how they can best be utilized in modern production systems.

The project leader cautioned though that their findings need to be validated over a wider range of conditions and environments before the commercial benefits can reliably be quantified.

A number of rhizobacteria strains that promote plant growth have been found and have already enabled the development of low-input cultivation of sugarcane in Brazil, according to the RHIBAC researchers.

RHIBAC involves the participation of agricultural companies, including an SME, who could be involved in commercialisation of rhizobacteria inocula, claim the research team.

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