SPECIALIST nitrogen-fixing technology for all crops and grass is being pioneered in the UK, through a working agreement between trading business, Gleadell Agriculture and Azotic Technologies.

Together, they plan to develop and market natural plant nutrition (NPN4) nitrogen-fixing technology across the UK.

Azotic Technologies, which is based in Nottingham, was formed in 2012 to commercialise the technology and it has proven the concept in a diverse range of crops, including cereals, oilseeds, potatoes and grass.

Trials show that reduced rates of N can be applied to crops when using NPN4, producing similar yields and quality to those grown entirely with artificial nitrogen. When NPN4 is used with normal levels of N, yield increases can also be achieved.

It works by colonising all crops with naturally occurring nitrogen-fixing bacteria. These spread throughout the plant, enabling every cell to convert atmospheric N into a form the plant can use.

Extensive development work, including seed inoculation and a network of organic and conventional trials across the UK, will be undertaken as part of the exclusive agreement.

In partnership with Dutch company, Koppert Biological Systems, which manufactures NPN4, they are working towards commercialisation of the product.

Gleadell's managing director, David Sheppard, said: “The potential benefits for growers, consumers and the environment are enormous. We are very much looking forward to further collaboration with Azotic to bring this technology to commercial reality.”

The focus for 2017 will be on organic crops, working closely with organisations and individual farmers to further explore the benefits.

“However, we believe the technology also has a huge part to play in conventional systems,” said Gleadell sales director, Stuart Shand. “We have been conducting application trials on dressed seed in partnership with Koppert. While this is currently work in progress at this stage, we have seen some very encouraging results.”

The inoculation of NPN4 into plants is said to improve performance and reduce the amount of fertiliser required to grow a crop, or increase yield depending on the rate of N applied.