By: Keira Havens, Sustainability Project Manager
Inside each teaspoon of soil are entire worlds inhabited by millions of microbes.
These microscopic life forms live a quiet existence beneath our feet. Agriculture is about growers working with that living, breathing land to produce healthy crops. Fields aren’t just another tool, like a combine or a tractor, but a partner in a grower’s effort to run a business and feed the world.
At Pivot Bio, we’re giving those soil microbes a clear mission: Nitrogen fixation. With Pivot Bio PROVEN®, growers can build a closer partnership with their land, making the most of their soil and their microbes.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Nitrogen is one of the building blocks of life. It’s also one of the most prevalent resources on the planet, making up 80% of earth’s atmosphere.
Unfortunately, that nitrogen is just out of reach of the crops. Atmospheric nitrogen bonds are very strong, complicating the process of breaking down the nutrient into a plant-ready form.
We’ve brought that nitrogen within reach with Pivot Bio PROVEN®.
Some soil microbes can break down atmospheric nitrogen and create a useable form for plants. However, that inherent ability has been rendered dormant by a century of synthetic chemical fertilizer use, blunting this all-natural ability. Pivot Bio is able to improve the ability of microbes to break down that atmospheric nitrogen and change it into a usable form by activating their own DNA.
These microbes are then turned into itty-bitty nitrogen factories.
Pivot Bio starts by finding the microbes with the code for nitrogen production in their DNA. Then, the nitrogen production is activated and supercharged using the microbe’s own genetics.
Once developed, Pivot Bio PROVEN® microbes take the triple-bonded atmospheric nitrogen molecules and snap them, creating the ammonia that plants need to grow and produce.
Think of bonded nitrogen as two pieces of LEGO, a popular building toy, that have been snapped together. It is difficult to separate just two pieces of LEGO. But when more pieces are added, it can create enough leverage to make separation possible.
Pivot Bio PROVEN® microbes include these specialized tools to break apart a molecule that otherwise would require a tremendous amount of energy to separate.
While the microbes themselves need nitrogen — as does every living organism — they can only use so much. Nitrogen is in a constant state of motion and easily flows from one state to another. As the microbes produce excess nitrogen, it seeps out of the cell walls, and due to the close proximity to the corn roots, it is immediately taken up by the plant.
The microbes never stop producing nitrogen, ensuring that there is a steady supply exiting the microbial membrane and available for the plant.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
The potential return on investment for using Pivot Bio PROVEN® is high, making it a savvy business decision for any grower. But there is also real value in the biological origins of Pivot Bio PROVEN®, making it more sustainable than any other nitrogen product on the market.
For the last century, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers have been an important tool to fuel crop productivity — in fact, these were just about the only tool available.
The demand for reliable nitrogen made the way we achieve artificial nitrogen fixation — known as the Haber-Bosch process — is one of the biggest industrial process on the planet. It’s also one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses. The energy needed to split atmospheric nitrogen molecules produces more than five hundred million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Scientists have spent the last century refining and improving the Haber-Bosch process to make it more efficient and less harmful. However, right now it’s about as good as it’s going to get. We’re hitting the thermodynamic limit of the process, so it’s just not possible to reduce energy inputs any further.
Pivot Bio PROVEN® is grown on sugar and water with next to no carbon emissions, and the nitrogen these microbes produces stays at the root of the plant where it belongs. With nitrogen-producing microbes, we aren’t just creating a sustainable product, we’re creating nitrogen’s turning point and a better tool for farmers around the globe.