The ability of legumes to self-fertilize by fixing nitrogen from the air is well-known. Developing this ability in grains, however, could radically change Canadian cereal crop production. Such an innovation has the potential to diminish input costs and decrease environmental impact, but making it happen is a complex and challenging task. Alicja Ziemienowicz, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, is working to solve this tricky biological puzzle. While her research began in 2014, and has yielded impressive results, it could be more than a decade from now until we see nitrogen-fixing grains blowing in the wind.
The implications for the development of self-fertilizing crops are enormous, but research is in its early days, said Bennett. His team is now focusing on identifying the genetic components and the associated microbes that carry out the process.