The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has granted Dr. Claus-Peter Witte of the Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, 1.35 million euros in funding provided by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to set up a German-Chinese research group for junior researchers. In this project researchers from Freie Universität and China Agricultural University in Bejing plan to study ways to optimize the nitrogen utilization of rice through biotechnological modification of the urea metabolism. The German section of the research group will be integrated in the research division "Biochemistry of Plants" headed by Professor Tina Romeis.
The focus of the Sino-German research group, headed by Dr. Claus-Peter Witte (Freie Universität Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Lai-Hua Liu (China Agricultural University), will be on the identification and molecular characterization of rice proteins involved in the uptake and metabolism of the urea. Part of the studies will deal with the physiology of urea intake and the assimilation of urea nitrogen in laboratory and field trials. The goal of the researchers is to achieve a a knowledge-based and targeted biotechnological modification of rice in order to optimize the utilization of urea nitrogen.
Urea is the world's most widely used nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture. In Asia, in particular, the proportion of urea is well over 50 percent. A large part of the urea employed is in rice production, where the utilization of nitrogen is only 30 to 40 percent. The enormous losses are not only an economic, but also a great ecological problem (groundwater pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, damage to the ozone layer). Even a slight improvement in the utilization would bring great economic and ecological benefits.
Additional information may be obtained from:
Dr. Claus-Peter Witte
Research Group: Biochemistry of Plants
Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin
Tel.: 030 / 838-54787