Across the Corn Belt this summer, Pivot Bio and farmers in the company’s Intent to Pivot program are beta testing the first sustainable source of nitrogen for corn. These plants receive nitrogen on-demand each day from Pivot Bio’s proprietary and field-tested microbes. The beta program is the final step before product is commercially available for use with corn for 2019 planting.
“We are hitting all of the milestones critical to delivering a beta product into the marketplace,” said Karsten Temme, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Pivot Bio. “The preliminary data highlights strong product performance in the field. We are poised to provide corn growers with the first clean alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.”
Over 41 billion bushels of corn are produced globally each year. Each day, every corn plant uses nitrogen to grow and mature into a harvestable crop. For about 100 years, farmers have relied on nitrogen fertilizer produced via the industrial Haber-Bosch process to feed their crops. While effective, there are environmental downsides. Farmers use the chemical nitrogen available to them today on fields. Some of it stays with the crops and does its job, while the rest volatilizes into the air and leaches into waterways, impacting our drinking water and contributing to algal blooms. Additionally, extensive use of synthetic chemical fertilizers has affected the soil microbiome, essentially causing the microbes’ innate nitrogen-producing ability to fall dormant.
“To slow or even reverse air and water pollution caused by synthetic fertilizer, farmers must have new tools as quickly as possible,” said Temme. “The industry has been working to develop self-fertilizing cereal crops like corn, wheat and rice for nearly 50 years. For the first time, Pivot Bio is making this possible. Our rivers and lakes cannot wait another 50 years for a clean alternative to today’s fertilizer.”
To provide this clean alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, Pivot Bio re-awakens the microbes’ natural ability to produce nitrogen. The nitrogen-producing microbes are applied at the time the corn crop is planted and grow along the root system of the corn, delivering nitrogen daily to the plant. There is no excess chemical nitrogen produced in this process, eliminating the waste of conventional fertilizer and protecting our waterways. Five generations of greenhouse and small plot testing has shown that Pivot Bio’s first-generation microbes produce about 25 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Consider the environmental benefit of using Pivot Bio’s nitrogen-producing microbes across all U.S. corn acres – it would be the equivalent of removing nearly one million cars off the road.
“Pivot Bio is leading the way with our cutting-edge microbiome research,” said Alvin Tamsir, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Pivot Bio. “Through nearly a decade of research, we understand how microbes should work in nature before they adapted to heavy fertilizer use. We take that knowledge and enable these naturally-occurring microbes to work as nature intended again.”
“As we walk the fields in our Intent to Pivot program, most have little nitrogen stress when compared to the control,” said Temme. “We are pleased with our product’s performance, and we look forward to the next step in our program, which is collecting yield data at harvest.”
As part of Pivot Bio’s pre-commercial plan, the company is beta-testing its first product that provides nitrogen to corn crops this growing season. Working with IN10T, an agronomic field research company, Pivot Bio is gathering in-season and harvest data to evaluate product performance from corn growers using the company’s nitrogen-producing microbes. Its Intent to Pivot trials are located across the Corn Belt in a variety of soil types and conditions.