This project will determine, through genomics, the dynamics of the soil bacterial populations in the rhizospheres of wheat and canola. The focus is on selected groups and species of bacterial that interact, by chemical signaling, with the plants’ roots. These bacteria control the soil nitrogen cycling processes and crop nitrogen uptake. This information will help develop Intelligent Nanofertilizers designed to increase nitrogen use efficiency by crops, reducing GHGs and lowering fertilizer costs for farmers. Nanotechnology could provide devices and mechanisms (such as nanobiosensors) in Intelligent NanoFertilizers to release nitrogen (N2O) only when the plant needs it and in the amount needed.

Nitrogen losses from fertilizer are estimated to cost Canadian farmers nearly $1.5 billion annually, and result in harmful N2O emissions. Canada’s agricultural GHG emissions are made up mainly of methane and N2O. Agriculture is estimated to produce significant N2O emissions annually in Alberta and N2O is about 300 times more effective than carbon dioxide when trapping heat in the atmosphere. The successful development, commercialization and adoption of novel Intelligent NanoFertilizers, at the farm level, has the potential to increase nitrogen use efficiency by crops by at least another 30 to 50 percent, thereby reducing GHG emissions and lowering fertilizer costs for farmers.

ERA funded this project through the Biological GHG Management Program, administered by Alberta Innovates.