Aarhus University Seal

Interdisciplinary study to explore bacteria's role in boosting low nitrogen input from the soil for cereal growth

NSECURE, a new interdisciplinary project led by Simona Radutoiu at the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, has been awarded DKK 15 million by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. This collaborative project also involves Associate professor Marianne Glasius (Chemistry, Aarhus University), and Professor Rasmus Waagepetersen (Mathematics, Aalborg University) and aims to study sustainable methods to optimise the yield of cereal crops by utilising soil bacteria.

Professor Simona Radutoiu (Molecular biology, Aarhus University), Associate Professor Marianne Glasius (Chemistry, Aarhus University) and Professor Rasmus Waagepetersen (Mathematics, Aalborg University) will study sustainable methods to optimise the yield of cereal crops by utilising soil bacteria (photo: Colourbox)

Crops such as wheat and barley heavily depend on nitrogen fertilizers to compensate for inadequate nitrogen levels in the soil. Typically, this compensation involves the use of chemical fertilizers, which unfortunately have a substantial negative impact on the environment. One potential sustainable solution is the utilization of biological nitrogen fixation facilitated by inoculants, which are nitrogen-fixing bacteria naturally present in the soil. However, the introduction of these bacteria to the soil poses challenges, hindering its viability as a long-term solution.

In addressing this issue, scientists from Aarhus University and Aalborg University are committed to developing a solution that not only benefits farmers but also prioritizes sustainability. The NSECURE initiative aims to identify the factors restricting the performance of these beneficial bacteria in soil and intends to create innovative tools for implementing reliable and resilient solutions for sustainable agriculture. The project brings together expertise from three diverse fields: chemistry, mathematics, and molecular biology. The collaboration across these disciplines is crucial for comprehending the intricacies of this biological challenge.

Professor Radutoiu emphasizes: "Together, we have unravelled how legume plants maintain a conducive microbial environment around their roots, fostering a beneficial, symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This grant enables us to apply our collective knowledge and capabilities, transcending disciplinary boundaries, to tackle the task of establishing a similar microbial environment in the root zone of cereals. This will enable beneficial bacteria to thrive and contribute to the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen for their plant hosts."

For further information, please contact

Professor Simona Radutoiu
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Aarhus University