NSF Ideas Lab
Nitrogen is critical to plant growth. A limited number of plant species have the capacity to fix atmospheric nitrogen through symbioses with nitrogen fixing bacteria; the rest need to obtain their nitrogen through soluble compounds in soil. For the majority of crop plants, nitrogen availability has been increased through the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers. However, application of artificial fertilizers is costly and is limited in developing countries, where the cost and lack of infrastructure are barriers. The process by which these fertilizers are produced is energy-intensive and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Further, much of the nitrogen applied to agricultural land through fertilizers is not used by the crop and is lost as run-off into water courses or as greenhouse gases through denitrification, resulting in deleterious impacts on the environment.
The ultimate aim of this Ideas Lab between the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in the UK is to help meet the challenge of sustainably producing enough food for a growing population while reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The aspiration is that mixing researchers from diverse scientific backgrounds will engender fresh thinking and new approaches that can be used to increase nitrogen availability to crop plants whilst maintaining or increasing yield, and hence decrease the need for the application of fertilizer. In addition, by bringing together highly qualified researchers from the US and the UK, the intention is to form strong transatlantic alliances, where the resulting synergies from the expertise of each partner allow for significant added value.
US researchers may submit preliminary proposals onlyvia FastLane for participating in the Ideas Lab in which a set of multidisciplinary ideas will be developed. These will be submitted as full proposals. Alternatively, US researchers who cannot or do not desire to participate in the Ideas Lab can submit full proposals directly via FastLane or Grants.gov in response to this solicitation. Collaboration among researchers from USA and UK is strongly encouraged in the full proposals.
The link to the BBSRC announcement is http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/opportunities/2012/ideaslab-nitrogen-improving-on-nature.aspx.