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OCR for page 48
Biological Nitrogen Fixation: RESEARCH CHALLENGES 3 Recommendations The panel recommends the following: Investment in Biological Nitrogen Fixation Research. Biological nitrogen fixation continues to be a high-priority research area, with expanding focus both for developed and developing countries. There is a need to relieve the more than $20 billion (and growing) cost of fertilizer nitrogen and its substantial environmental damage, coupled with the expanding requirement for food and the desire for more sustainable agriculture and forestry. These dictate research investment in BNF in the 1990s that is even more urgent than in the 1970s and 1980s. Research to expand our knowledge of nitrogen fixation and develop economic applications and management systems for developed and developing countries must be pursued. Holistic and Integrated Approach to Applying BNF Systems. A holistic and integrated approach is recommended so that socioeconomic and policy considerations are coupled with products, processes and system generation. Fundamental knowledge needs to be integrated with efforts focused on applications to agriculture, forestry, and natural systems. Continued Individual, Institutional, and Intercountry Collaboration. Scientific collaboration among research-based organizations must be continued, including exchange visits for collaborators. This
OCR for page 49
Biological Nitrogen Fixation: RESEARCH CHALLENGES is especially important in research with an integrated focus on local agrosystems. Scientific cooperation between scientists of the less developed countries and industrialized countries in equal partnership is especially valuable to all parties, as indicated by the collaborative research projects assessed in this report. Continued and Expanded Networking. Networking, site visits, and other linkages among different programs should be continued and expanded. NRC-BOSTID and AID's Research and Development Bureau's research programs have developed techniques that should be given strong long-term financial support; continuity of support is essential as well. Biological nitrogen fixation research should be supported through an information network. Support for Germplasm Collections and Characterization. Collections of microorganisms and plants involved in biological nitrogen fixation are of central importance and we recommend expanded support for continued maintenance of such collections. The organisms in these collections must be carefully identified and characterized for useful traits. New Policy Development. Policies should be developed to encourage expanded use of BNF based on its total economic benefits—including unsubsidized direct and environmental costs of fertilizer nitrogen—its sustainability, its potential to meet world food needs, and its social implications.
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