There are a lot of efforts underway to optimize and minimize fertilizer use in crop production. Precision agriculture tools are improving the accuracy of where fertilizer is placed so that as much of it as possible reaches the plants that need it.

Researchers from at least two Canadian universities — Ottawa’s Carleton University and Western University in London, Ont. — are working on smart fertilizers that only deploy when the plants are in need of nutrients.

The latest approach is developing crops that can fertilize themselves. It’s something that life sciences giant Bayer is betting heavily on — the German multinational recently announced a new partnership with Boston-based biotech start-up Ginkgo Bioworks to create a new company focused on the plant biome.


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