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  • Agriculture is responsible for about one quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.

  • So, to stop the planet from getting substantially warmer, we need breakthroughs in many sectors of our economy, including how we grow food.

  • Pivot Bio has a clean alternative to chemical fertilizer that could help transform farming and reduce climate change.

  • It takes four things to grow a plant: sun, water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen.

  • A plant is really good at getting the first three of those.

  • But it can't make its own nitrogen.

  • Fertilizer is primarily nitrogen.

  • And it's really what fuels and makes our food system possible.

  • It's because nitrogen is ultimately a building block of life.

  • Fertilizer's done all these great things, but it also has a lot of negative side effects.

  • Making fertilizer creates a lot of pollution and using fertilizer creates a lot of pollution as well.

  • One of those forms of pollution is nitrous oxide, a gas that's 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

  • If we stopped using fertilizer tomorrow, we wouldn't be able to produce half of the world's food supply.

  • But there's a possible replacement and it lies in the soil beneath our feet.

  • Microbes in the soil can also produce nitrogen for the crop.

  • Before we had fertilizer, microbes played that role.

  • So when we started breeding plants so that every harvest would produce more yield, we needed more nitrogen than the microbe in the soil could provide.

  • And so we invented fertilizer and we've caused those microbes in the soil to go into hibernation.

  • We founded Pivot Bio with one mission in mind: How do we reinvent what it means to provide nitrogen to our crops?

  • So, if you pull a seedling out of the ground, attached to the roots are thousands and thousands of microbes.

  • We can extract the microbes off the roots, sequence their DNA and understand which ones have baked into their genome this ability to produce nitrogen for the plant.

  • We know how to turn those genes back on and these microbes can start making nitrogen again.

  • If we can start drawing down fertilizer use, little by little we'll make an entire switch away from fertilizer.

  • That's just the kind of new solution we need in the face of a changing climate.

Agriculture is responsible for about one quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.

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B2 US fertilizer nitrogen soil pollution pivot plant

A better way to fertilize

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    Julia Kuo posted on 2019/07/24
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