Exploring the Potential of Transgenic Crops for Improved Fertilizer Use Efficiency

Project: Research project


Crops produced in the desert receive large annual applications of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizer. However, declining energy supplies and P mineral reserves, erratic fertilizer costs, and concerns about water pollution, has created incentives for improved efficiency. While we have developed management practices such as soil and plant tissue testing and improved fertilizer placement and timing, the possibility of genetic modifications to crops for improved fertilizer use efficiency has received little attention. More recently, it has been shown that overexpression of type I H+ -pyrophosphatase AVP1 (AVP, Arabidopsis vacuolar pyrophosphatase) can enhance nutrient acquisition by crops. AVP1 over-expressing tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum L.) plants produced more shoot and root biomass than controls when grown under phosphate and nitrate limitations and accumulate more potassium in all conditions tested. Preliminary data we have collected show the potential for yields of AVP1 romaine lettuce (Lactuca staiva L.) to be maximized with appreciably less P fertilizer than that required for conventional cultivars. The objective of this project is to evaluate the potential for using AVP1 modified crops for improved nutrient use efficiency under desert cropping systems. In addition to crops we have already modified genetically (potato (Solanum tuberosum) and cotton (Gossypium spp.), and romaine lettuce), we plan to incorporate the AVP1 trait into iceberg lettuce, a very large recipient of N and P fertilizer. Field studies will be conducted to test control plants and AVP1 modified plants under optimal and suboptimal fertilizer regimes. Fertilizer recoveries and fertilizer use efficiency will be determined and the efficacy of AVP1 modification as a strategy for improved nutrient use efficiency will be evaluated. We aim to demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of using AVP1 modified crops. We anticipate the successful demonstration of this transgenic technology will ultimately benefit growers whose fertilizer costs are rapidly increasing. In the longer term this project should benefit society at large as natural gas used to produce N fertilizer, and P mineral reserves, are finite resources in decline and air and water pollution associated with fertilization are of continuing concern.
Effective start/end date1/1/121/31/14


  • California Department of Food & Agriculture: $44,000.00


genetically modified organisms
romaine lettuce
nutrient use efficiency
water pollution
Lactuca sativa var. capitata
natural gas
air pollution
genetic engineering
Solanum tuberosum
Solanum lycopersicum var. lycopersicum
ecosystem services
cropping systems
plant tissues