ACPFG was successful in securing an Australian Research Council linkage grant in the latest rounds, released this week. The project aims to improve the nitrogen use efficiency of cereal plants, therefore reducing the reliance on fertilisers which in turn causes outbreaks of toxic algal blooms like the ones seen in China this week.
The team, led by Dr Trevor Garnett and Dr Sigrid Heuer at ACPFG, will identify and investigate nitrogen uptake pathways to identify what it is that is limiting plants’ nitrogen uptake. Improving the nitrogen uptake process in plants will increase the plant’s ability to use nitrogen more efficiently, leading to reduced and more sustainable nitrogen fertiliser usage.
‘Nitrogen is one of the most expensive and problematic inputs for cereal farming. Current farming practices lead to the inefficient use of nitrogen fertiliser. The excess fertiliser travels via the water system to river deltas resulting in algal blooms and is a major contributor to greenhouse gas outputs,’ said lead researcher on the project, Dr Trevor Garnett. ‘Improving nitrogen use efficiency in cereals will decrease fertiliser usage, providing a basis for greater economic and environmental sustainability of cereal growing.’
Image: Example of a toxic algal bloom off Washington, US. Left is the natural colour, right has been enhanced to reveal chlorophyll concentrations (Image: SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/ORBIMAGE)
Drs Garnett and Heuer are working with Dr Ute Roessner from the University of Melbourne and Professor Michael Small from the University of Western Australia. Partner organisations on the project include DuPont Pioneer in the US and Australian Grains Technology (AGT) in Australia.