The Freie Universität Berlin and China Agricultural University are to cooperate on a €1.35 million research project to optimise nitrogen uptake in rice.
The project will be funded through the German Academic Exchange Service and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The research group, led by Claus-Peter Witte from Freie Universität’s Institute of Biology, and Lai-Hua Liu from the China Agricultural University in Beijing, is hoping to find ways of modifying urea metabolism in rice.
The project will focus on identifying the molecular structure of the proteins responsible for the absorption and metabolism of urea, and then conducting laboratory and field trials to test the findings.
Urea is the nitrogen fertiliser most commonly used in agriculture around the world, accounting for half of the fertilisers used in Asia. A substantial proportion of this is employed in rice production where nitrogen uptake is only 30 to 40 per cent. The considerable nitrogen fallout is not only an economic loss, but also a major ecological problem, leading to groundwater contamination, greenhouse gas emissions, and damage to the ozone layer. Even a slight improvement in nitrogen efficiency would result in noticeable economic and ecological benefits.