Nitrogen-fixing pines and grasses

Nitrogen-fixing pines and grasses

This five year programme funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund will deliver significant benefits to New Zealand’s forestry and pastoral farming industries by allowing pine trees and grasses to fix nitrogen (convert atmospheric nitrogen into plant-available mineral nitrogen) and by improving the plants’ tolerance to stress.

These benefits will be conferred by creating new symbioses between plants, fungi and bacteria using natural breeding techniques.

Lincoln Agritech researchers will isolate, identify and select for New Zealand microoganisms that naturally can undertake nitrogen-fixation and deliver proteins and polymers that will enhance plant tolerance to stress.

The researchers will introduce the selected bacteria into two fungal endophyte species, Trichoderma and Epichloë, fungi that have ability to live within plants. These fungal-bacterial hybrids will then be introduced to pine trees and perennial ryegrass and be tested whether the plant-fungi-bacterial combination is advantageous for forestry and pasture growth.

The research is world leading as no other researchers have attempted a triple symbiosis between these fungi, bacteria and plants.

The Lincoln Agritech team will be working with research collaborators from Lincoln University, Scion and AgResearch; commercial companies Agrimm and Grasslanz; and with multiple Iwi partners around the country.