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NUCLEUS: a virtual joint centre to deliver enhanced nitrogen use efficiency via an integrated soil-plant systems approach for the UK & Brasil

Posted by | February 21, 2021

Principal investigators: Professor Sacha Mooney, the University of Nottingham; Professor Ciro A Rosolem, São Paulo State University

Associated with: BBSRC-Newton Fund Call for Virtual Joint Centres with Brazil, China and India in Agricultural Nitrogen

Project Summary:

With available land, water and sunlight, Brazil is considered one of the bread baskets of the world. Nitrogen is a key limiting factor for crop growth and yield, necessitating the routine addition of synthetic N fertilisers. Similar to the UK, average nitrogen recovery (how much the plant actually uses) in Brazilian agriculture has been estimated to be around 70%, however, enormous regional variation exists. For example, nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) is higher in intensively farmed and industrialized parts of the country but remains low in former Amazonian areas where severe N-depletion has occurred due to inappropriate shifting cultivation practices (e.g. fires, insufficient fallow, erosion). In the Centre, South and Southwest of Brazil, significant N losses occur through leaching, emissions of nitrous oxide (a potent greenhouse gas), ammonium volatilization, and losses through plant tissues and erosion. For both Brazil and the UK, there is a major need and potential to increase agronomic nitrogen use efficiency and this will be the focus of NUCLEUS, a newly formed Virtual Joint Centre to deliver enhanced Nitrogen Use effiCiency via an integrated SoiL-Plant systEms approach for the Uk & BraSil. NUCLEUS brings together 12 world-class partners with extensive and complementary expertise in soil, plant and environmental sciences with the socio-economic, ethical, cultural and educational needs of agricultural communities. Partner institutions are from different regions in both the UK and Brazil, addressing both the spatial diversity of agroecosystems and providing a wide variety in stakeholder networks. The British partners are the University of Nottingham, the University of Aberdeen, Rothamsted Research, and Bangor University. Partners in Brazil include Sao Paulo State University, the University of Sao Paulo, the University of Western Sao Paulo, the Agronomic Institute of Campinas, Embrapa Rice and Beans, the Goiano Federal Institute, the Federal University of Goias, and Maranhao State University.