With the advent and increasing use of fertilizer in industrialized agriculture, symbioses between crops and their nitrogen-fixing microbes (which have been evolving for billions of years) are losing their strength. The fertilizer that’s being used provides nitrogen for crops, but it does so in abundance, which has not only resulted in the crops’ microbes losing the ability to capture nitrogen, but has also led to financial problems for farmers and concerns about the effect of excess nitrogen in the environment.
The team at Pivot Bio is working on a solution: a probiotic for crops that forms a symbiotic relationship with them as soon as roots develop, allowing for the crops to obtain nitrogen in a self-sufficient way. There are plans for three generations of the product, the first of which will provide 20 percent of the nitrogen crops need. Karsten Temme, the founder and CEO of Pivot Bio, forecasts that the second generation product will provide about 50 percent of the nitrogen needed, and the third will provide 100 percent of it. This could have a significant impact on the environment, considering that 80 percent of the fertilizer used turns into pollution, either in the form of nitrate in the water or nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas that’s 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The team at Pivot Bio has reached the last step before launch, with early adopters already testing the product on cereal crops, which provide over half the world’s dietary energy. To learn more, visit pivotbio.com.