Call for Proposals in the Area of Agriculture Science

Ignite Life Science Foundation

Relevent Country: India

Ignite is seeking applications for its Fast Grant Awards in the area of Agriculture Science.

The Challenges

  • Industrial-scale ammonia production and its subsequent conversion to synthetic N fertilizers is a high energy-consuming process. It also has a very high carbon footprint – the hydrogen gas used as feedstock is produced from petroleum gas, coal, or other oils, releasing considerable CO2 and other greenhouse gases. How can they produce N fertilizers in nature-friendly and sustainable ways to ensure future crop productivity increases?
  • The easy availability of synthetic N fertilizers has often led to their excessive use at the expense of other organic sources. Organic manure, say farmyard manure, may not provide as much N per unit volume but adds the much-needed carbon essential for maintaining microbial activity and sustaining soil health for plant growth. Can novel biological sources be discovered or formulations be concocted in resource-efficient ways to address this problem of depletion of organic carbon and restore soil health? These need not necessarily replace synthetic N fertilizers but must be compatible with them to be used in judicious combinations to reduce their overall use without compromising crop productivity.
  • Soluble forms of N used by plants are highly mobile in soil. Synthetic fertilizers applied to the soil tend to leach down beyond the root zones and often reach water bodies where they cause eutrophication. Furthermore, several species of microbes in the soil act as de-nitrifying agents that release the fixed N back to its gaseous form, reducing the availability for plants. Can they develop novel methods to reduce loss and optimize N fertilizer usage?
  • Plants belonging to the Leguminosae species have a symbiotic relationship with the Nfixing soil microbe, Rhizobium spp., which are harboured in their root nodules from where they provide fixed N to the plant. Free-living microbes can also fix N and make it available to the crop plant. Can they develop new microbial inoculants as naturefriendly supplements to address the soil nutrient depletion problem? Are there genetic engineering/genome editing methods to enhance plants to leverage N-fixing microbes?
  • Crop plants show significant genetic diversity in their ability to assimilate available N or Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE). What types of genetic engineering/genome editing in plants will improve their NUE, and how does one make it commercially viable?

Funding Information

  • The size of the funding request should be less than INR 25 Lakhs per year.
  • The tenure should be maximum of three years, renewable each year based on a review by the scientific advisory panel.
  • Projects with smaller funding requests and comparable impact are preferred since they will allow them to fund more investigators.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Research proposals addressing the Challenges are invited from not-for-profit research institutions (public or private).
  • The Challenges are to be interpreted in their broadest sense. Preference will be given to collaborative proposals involving groups with divergent expertise. High-risk, high-reward, multi-disciplinary approaches, that can positively impact the current nitrogen-based fertilizer ecosystem are welcome.
  • They prefer proposals that address a central hypothesis/question relating to a Challenge. The hypothesis should be testable using a clearly defined experimental approach within the tenure of the Grant. Proposals will be evaluated for originality and potential for future applications in Agriculture. All research proposals should be compliant with the rules and guidelines applicable in India.