Biological nitrogen fixation in cereal crops



Research group


1,259,501 Euros

Funding body

Bill & Melinda Gate’s Foundation, USA

Type of action

Project reference


The long-term goal of the Biological Nitrogen Fixation project (NFIX) is to engineer varieties of cereals that require little or no nitrogen input and deliver higher and more resilient yields. The technology will help small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia to increase crop profits and overcome poverty. It seeks a durable solution to poverty that is environmental and economically sustainable. The goal will be achieved by making the plants acquire nitrogen from the atmosphere rather than from synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. The strategy is to transfer to the plant the bacterial genes needed for the biogenesis of nitrogenase, the protein complex that performs biological nitrogen fixation (BNF). This approach has the advantage of developing a technology that is transmissible through the seeds and is generic for cereals. The Figure depicts the genetic modules to engineer BNF in plants. 1, Structural nitrogenase proteins module; 2, Simple-cofactors module; 3, Complexcofactors module; 4, Cellular integration module. The action of these modules sequentially transforms the structural proteins into catalytically active nitrogenase.