An oxygen-depleted dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|Public Domain

The amount of oxygen available in the oceans is rapidly declining – over 500 individual low-oxygen sites have been identified in coastal waters around the world since the 1960s. These oxygen-limited “dead zones” often drive away mobile animals while smothering immobile (“sessile”) creatures. While dead zones can form through natural processes, they often occur downstream of agricultural and industrial activities. For example, Hurricane Irma’s torrential rains dispersed nutrient-enriched fertilizers around Florida, causing an exceptionally severe red tide and the widespread suffocation of sea life. As global coastlines become increasingly vulnerable to dead zones, it is critical that we expertly manage fertilizer use in agriculture. An agricultural technology (“AgTech”) start-up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Pivot Bio, may have developed a solution for reducing the amount of nutrients that end up in our waterways and coastal oceans.

The Origin Of Our Global Nitrogen Problem

Nitrogen is a naturally occurring element that helps plants grow rapidly. Despite our atmosphere consisting of nearly 80% nitrogen, plants are not able to use the atmospheric form, which consists of two bonded nitrogen atoms. However, certain microbes – bacteria – embedded in the soil can “fix” nitrogen by attaching hydrogen or oxygen molecules to atmospheric nitrogen. Many such bacteria have evolved to provide plants with this “fixed” nitrogen in exchange for the sugars released through the plant’s roots.

In the early 20th century, physical chemist Fritz Haber helped develop a method, known as the Haber-Bosch Process, for producing synthetic nitrogen. Prior to this invention, European and South American farmers harvested and sparred over nitrogen-rich bird “guano”. Since its inception, the Haber-Bosch Process has supported nearly half of our global population, but it has also doubled the amount of fixed nitrogen on our planet.

A vehicle is seen spraying coffee plants at a plantation in this aerial photograph taken over Brazil. Photographer: Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg

While synthetic fertilizers have accelerated the growth rates of crops worldwide, most of the synthetic nitrogen that farmers apply is never absorbed by the crops they produce; sitting in the soils, the nitrogen evaporates into the atmosphere and becomes the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (which is 300 times more potent than CO2) or gets washed into nearby waterways that lead to the ocean.

Could Specialized Microbes Be The Solution?

As nitrogen fertilizers have become more common, many bacteria and their nitrogen-fixing abilities have become dormant. Pivot Bio has re-modeled these dormant bacteria to revive the natural synergy that exists between nitrogen-fixing microbes and sugar-exuding plants. Pivot Bio currently focuses on wheat, corn, and rice because these crops consume 50% of all globally produced nitrogen and do not have a natural association with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (like rhizobia and soybeans). Instead, these crops exude sugars and molecules out of their roots into the soils to attract beneficial microbes.

“Any small amount of dirt can hold thousands and thousands of microbes, so that’s the resource that we’re tapping into,” says Dr. Sarah Bloch, lead scientist at Pivot Bio, “Of those thousands and thousands of microbes, only some of those microbes have a strong relationship with the crops we’re interested in and only some of those are able to produce nitrogen.”

Dr. Sarah Bloch, Lead Scientist at Pivot Bio, holds a soil sample collected from the midwest.Priya Shukla

To find the most productive nitrogen-fixing microbes, Pivot Bio surveyed soil samples from across the U.S., analyzed DNA found within the soils to identify the nitrogen-producers, and then determined the genetic mechanism that caused the nitrogen-fixing bacteria to become dormant in the presence of fertilizers. The Pivot Bio team then altered the bacteria’s DNA so that they would continue to provide nitrogen to plants when fertilizers were present. Thus, the microbes could potentially fulfill some of the plant’s nitrogen requirements and reduce the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.

After introducing multiple variations of nitrogen-producing bacteria into soils where crops were growing, Pivot Bio worked with farmers in the midwest and engaged in a process that co-founder and CEO, Dr. Karsten Temme, refers to as “shovel-omics”: they dug up the roots of the plants and confirmed which altered microbes had latched onto the plant’s roots and were producing the most nitrogen.

Pivot Bio’s first product,Proven“, comes as a spray ladden with proprietary nitrogen-fixing bacteria that farmers apply when they first plant seeds, and has been specifically designed for corn. The microbes in the spray produce 25 pounds of nitrogen per acre, which could reduce up to one-quarter of the amount of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer that farmers usually apply. Because the number of microbes continues to increase as the plants grow, only a single initial application of Proven is necessary whereas farmers often apply synthetic fertilizers multiple times per year.

Corn growing in soilPivot Bio

Not only does Proven have the capacity to reduce the money, time, and effort associated with repeated applications of synthetic fertilizer, but according to Dr. Bloch, “if every farmer were to adopt this product and reduce their nitrogen inputs by 25% per acre, the greenhouse gas equivalent is like taking one million cars off the road.”

Can Proven Improve Coastal Water Quality?

“One thing that we’ve become really concerned about is how do we make sure these microbes don’t become fertilizer for weeds, that they don’t get washed into our waterways and fertilize algal blooms,” says Dr. Temme.

Red tide water along beach off of western Florida coast with rocks in ocean and cloudy sky on horizon

While a microbe that produces high quantities of nitrogen might be capable of exacerbating algal blooms and red tides, this does not seem to be the case with the microbes in Proven. Because the microbes exclusively provide nitrogen for a given plant, they are less competitive than their natural counterparts and rely on the plant for their sugar source – when the crop dies, the microbes do as well. Thus, the nitrogen these bacteria produce cannot be transported by rainfall and evaporation the way synthetic nitrogen can.

Says Dr. Temme, “just like saving our pennies and having compound interest, every pound of nitrogen we displace is going to have a ripple effect.”

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An oxygen-depleted dead
zone in the Gulf of Mexico.(********** )National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|Public Domain

The
quantity of oxygen readily available in the oceans is quickly decreasing- over500 specific low-oxygen websites have actually been recognized in seaside waters worldwide given that the1960 s. These oxygen-limited” dead zones” frequently repel mobile animals while smothering stable(” sessile” )animals. While dead zones can(****************** )kind through natural procedures, they frequently take place downstream of farming and commercial activities. For instance, Typhoon Irma’s downpours distributed nutrient-enriched fertilizers around Florida, triggering(******************* )an extremely serious red tide(**************** )and the prevalent suffocation of sea life. As worldwide shorelines end up being(******************** )significantly susceptible to dead zones, it is important that we skillfully handle fertilizer usage in farming. A farming innovation (” AgTech”) start-up in the San Francisco Bay Location, Pivot Bio, might have established a service for lowering the quantity of nutrients that wind up in our waterways and seaside oceans.

The Origin Of Our International Nitrogen Issue

Nitrogen is a naturally taking place aspect that assists plants proliferate. Regardless of our environment including almost80% nitrogen, plants are unable to utilize the climatic kind, which includes 2 bonded nitrogen atoms Nevertheless, particular microorganisms -germs- ingrained in the soil can” repair “nitrogen by connecting hydrogen or oxygen particles to climatic nitrogen. Lots of such germs have actually developed to offer plants with this” repaired “nitrogen in exchange for the sugars launched through the plant’s roots.

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In the early20 th century, physical chemist Fritz Haber

assisted establish an approach, called the Haber-Bosch Process, for producing artificial nitrogen. Prior to this innovation, European and South American farmers collected and sparred over nitrogen-rich bird” guano”. Given that its creation, the Haber-Bosch Process has actually supported almost half of our worldwide population, however it has likewise doubled the quantity of repaired nitrogen on our world.

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While artificial fertilizers have actually sped up the development rates of crops worldwide, many

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(********************** )Could Specialized Microbes Be The Service?

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) As nitrogen fertilizers have actually ended up being more typical, lots of germs and their nitrogen-fixing capabilities have actually ended up being inactive.

Pivot Bio has actually re-modeled these inactive germs to restore the natural synergy that exists in between nitrogen-fixing microorganisms and sugar-exuding plants. Pivot Bio presently concentrates on wheat, corn, and rice since these crops take in50% of all internationally produced nitrogen and do not have a natural association with nitrogen-fixing germs( like rhizobia and soybeans(**************** )). Rather, these crops radiate sugars and particles out of their roots into the soils to draw in advantageous microorganisms.

” Any percentage of dirt can hold thousands and countless microorganisms, so that’s the resource that we’re taking advantage of,” states Dr. Sarah Bloch, lead researcher at Pivot
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Dr.
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a soil sample
gathered from the midwest. Priya Shukla

To discover the most efficient nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, Pivot Bio surveyed soil samples from throughout the U.S., evaluated DNA discovered within
the soils to recognize the nitrogen-producers
, and after that

figured out the hereditary system that triggered the nitrogen-fixing germs to end up being inactive in the existence of fertilizers. The Pivot Bio group then changed the germs’s DNA so that they would continue to offer nitrogen to plants when fertilizers existed. Therefore, the microorganisms might possibly satisfy a few of the plant’s nitrogen requirements and decrease the requirement for artificial nitrogen fertilizer.

After presenting numerous variations of nitrogen-producing germs into soils where crops were growing, Pivot Bio dealt with farmers in the midwest and taken part in a procedure that co-founder and CEO, Dr. Karsten Temme, describes as” shovel-omics”: they collected the roots of the plants and(**************************************** )validated which changed microorganisms had actually acquired the plant’s roots and (************************************ )were producing one of the most nitrogen.

Pivot Bio’s very first item,(*************************************** )” Proven(**************** )

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(******** )(********* )Corn growing in soil Pivot Bio

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Not

just does Proven have the capability to

decrease the cash, time, and effort connected with duplicated applications of artificial fertilizer, however according to Dr. Bloch,” if every farmer were to embrace this item and
decrease their nitrogen

inputs by25% per acre, the greenhouse gas equivalent resembles taking one million cars and trucks off the roadway.”(************ )(************** )(********************** )Can Show Improve Coastal Water Quality? (*********************** )

” Something that we have actually ended up being truly worried about is how do we make certain these microorganisms do not end up being fertilizer for weeds, that they do not get cleaned into our waterways and fertilize algal

blossoms,” states Dr. Temme.

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Red tide water along beach off of western Florida coast with rocks in ocean and cloudy sky on horizon (************ )

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While a microorganism that produces high amounts of nitrogen
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, this does not appear to be the case with the microorganisms in Proven.
Due to the fact that the microorganisms solely offer nitrogen for an offered plant, they are less competitive than their natural equivalents and
count on the plant for
their sugar
source- when the crop passes away, the microorganisms do too. Therefore, the nitrogen these germs produce can not be carried by rains and evaporation the method artificial nitrogen can.(************ )

States Dr. Temme,” similar to conserving our cents and having substance interest, every pound of nitrogen we displace is going to have a causal sequence.”(************ )” readability =” 115.(******************************************************* )” >

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An oxygen-depleted dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.(********** )National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|Public Domain (************ ).(************* ).

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The quantity of oxygen readily available in the oceans is quickly decreasing – over500 specific low-oxygen websites have actually been recognized in seaside waters worldwide given that the1960 s. These oxygen-limited” dead zones” frequently repel mobile animals while smothering stable( “sessile”) animals. While dead zones can(****************** )kind through natural procedures, they frequently take place downstream of farming and commercial activities. For instance, Typhoon Irma’s downpours distributed nutrient-enriched fertilizers around Florida, triggering(******************* )an extremely serious red tide(**************** )and the prevalent suffocation of sea life. As worldwide shorelines end up being significantly susceptible to dead zones, it is important that we skillfully handle fertilizer usage in farming. A farming innovation(” AgTech “) start-up in the San Francisco Bay Location, Pivot Bio, might have established a service for lowering the quantity of nutrients that wind up in our waterways and seaside oceans.

.

The Origin Of Our International Nitrogen Issue

Nitrogen is a naturally taking place aspect that assists plants proliferate. Regardless of our environment including almost 80 % nitrogen, plants are unable to utilize the climatic kind, which includes 2 bonded nitrogen atoms Nevertheless, particular microorganisms – germs – ingrained in the soil can “repair” nitrogen by connecting hydrogen or oxygen particles to climatic nitrogen. Lots of such germs have actually developed to offer plants with this “repaired” nitrogen in exchange for the sugars launched through the plant’s roots.

In the early 20 th century, physical chemist Fritz Haber assisted establish an approach, called the Haber-Bosch Process , for producing artificial nitrogen. Prior to this innovation, European and South American farmers collected and sparred over nitrogen-rich bird “guano”. Given that its creation, the Haber-Bosch Process has actually supported almost half of our worldwide population, however it has likewise doubled the quantity of repaired nitrogen on our world.

.

.

A lorry is seen spraying coffee plants at a plantation in this aerial photo taken control of Brazil. Professional Photographer: Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg

.

.

While artificial fertilizers have actually sped up the development rates of crops worldwide, the majority of the artificial nitrogen that farmers use is never ever taken in by the crops they produce; being in the soils, the nitrogen vaporizes into the environment and ends up being the greenhouse gas laughing gas (which is 300 times more powerful than CO2 ) or gets cleaned into neighboring waterways that cause the ocean.

Could Specialized Microbes Be The Service?

As nitrogen fertilizers have actually ended up being more typical, lots of germs and their nitrogen-fixing capabilities have actually ended up being inactive. Pivot Bio has actually re-modeled these inactive germs to restore the natural synergy that exists in between nitrogen-fixing microorganisms and sugar-exuding plants. Pivot Bio presently concentrates on wheat, corn, and rice since these crops take in 50 % of all internationally produced nitrogen and do not have a natural association with nitrogen-fixing germs (like rhizobia and soybeans ). Rather, these crops radiate sugars and particles out of their roots into the soils to draw in advantageous microorganisms.

“Any percentage of dirt can hold thousands and countless microorganisms, so that’s the resource that we’re taking advantage of,” states Dr. Sarah Bloch, lead researcher at Pivot Bio, “Of those thousands and countless microorganisms, just a few of those microorganisms have a strong relationship with the crops we have an interest in and just a few of those have the ability to produce nitrogen.”

.

.

Dr. Sarah Bloch, Lead Researcher at Pivot Bio, holds a soil sample gathered from the midwest. Priya Shukla

.

.

To discover the most efficient nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, Pivot Bio surveyed soil samples from throughout the U.S., evaluated DNA discovered within the soils to recognize the nitrogen-producers, and after that figured out the hereditary system that triggered the nitrogen-fixing germs to end up being inactive in the existence of fertilizers. The Pivot Bio group then changed the germs’s DNA so that they would continue to offer nitrogen to plants when fertilizers existed. Therefore, the microorganisms might possibly satisfy a few of the plant’s nitrogen requirements and decrease the requirement for artificial nitrogen fertilizer.

After presenting numerous variations of nitrogen-producing germs into soils where crops were growing, Pivot Bio dealt with farmers in the midwest and taken part in a procedure that co-founder and CEO, Dr. Karsten Temme, describes as “shovel-omics”: they collected the roots of the plants and validated which changed microorganisms had actually acquired the plant’s roots and were producing one of the most nitrogen.

Pivot Bio’s very first item, Proven “, comes as a spray ladden with exclusive nitrogen-fixing germs that farmers use when they initially plant seeds, and has actually been particularly developed for corn. The microorganisms in the spray fruit and vegetables 25 pounds of nitrogen per acre , which might decrease approximately one-quarter of the quantity of artificial nitrogen fertilizer that farmers normally use. Due to the fact that the variety of microorganisms continues to increase as the plants grow, just a single preliminary application of Proven is essential whereas farmers frequently use artificial fertilizers numerous times annually.

.

.

Corn growing in soil Pivot Bio

.

.

Not just does Proven have the capability to decrease the cash, time, and effort connected with duplicated applications of artificial fertilizer, however according to Dr. Bloch, “if every farmer were to embrace this item and decrease their nitrogen inputs by 25 % per acre, the greenhouse gas equivalent resembles taking one million cars and trucks off the roadway.”

Can Show Improve Coastal Water Quality?

“Something that we have actually ended up being truly worried about is how do we make certain these microorganisms do not end up being fertilizer for weeds, that they do not get cleaned into our waterways and fertilize algal blossoms,” states Dr. Temme.

.

.

Red tide water along beach off of western Florida coast with rocks in ocean and cloudy sky on horizon

.

.

While a microorganism that produces high amounts of nitrogen may be efficient in intensifying algal blossoms and red tides, this does not appear to be the case with the microorganisms in Proven. Due to the fact that the microorganisms solely offer nitrogen for an offered plant, they are less competitive than their natural equivalents and count on the plant for their sugar source – when the crop passes away, the microorganisms do too. Therefore, the nitrogen these germs produce can not be carried by rains and evaporation the method artificial nitrogen can.

States Dr. Temme, “similar to conserving our cents and having substance interest, every pound of nitrogen we displace is going to have a causal sequence.”

.