Bacteria in Syngenta’s biological, Vixeran, converts atmospheric nitrogen into a useable form for crops, the firm says

Neil Proctor

Neil Proctor, Syngenta biologicals market development manager 

Nitrogen-fixing Vixeran could provide crops with an equivalent of 30-40 kg/ha conventional nitrogen fertiliser this spring, and create a more resilient nutrient strategy to cope with increasingly challenging seasonal conditions, says manufacturer Syngenta.

The endophytic bacteria in Vixeran convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form that is readily accessible to all crop plants, the crop science firm explains.

The product offers farmers a new option when looking to reduce their reliance on high levels of conventional fertilisers while supporting soil health, says Syngenta biologicals market development manager, Neil Procter.

Speaking at a Syngenta Technical Webinar earlier this month (February 2024), Procter pointed out drivers for change in nitrogen use include societal and legislative demands, the cost of fertilisers, climate change requiring reduced energy consumption and the potential for crops to perform better in improved soil microbial conditions with regenerative farming practices, including min till and cover crops.

“Creating conventional nitrogen consumes a huge amount of energy in its production. Crop plants then expend further energy to convert nitrates taken up through the root into ammonium - and then into amino acids and proteins to build biomass,” Procter said. “That energy that could be better utilised in driving growth if the nitrogen is supplied in a more readily useable form by Vixeran.”

He further believes the continuous supply of nitrogen by Vixeran within the plant can help to mitigate the physical constraints of conventional fertiliser application timing and weather conditions for its utilisation – be that too dry for uptake or too wet and leached away.

“Vixeran gives the opportunity to make better use of the resource, for more efficient and sustainable crop production,” Procter says.

Reporting the development of the Vixeran bacterial strain, Mónica Perdices Hoyo, technical director at Ceres Biotics, highlighted that while many bacteria do have the capability to fix atmospheric nitrogen - including healthy soil microbial activity - there is huge variability in the efficiency with which they can achieve it.

“The potential of Azotobacter salinestris species has long being recognised, but it was only through huge investment in R&D time and technology that the specific CECT 9690 strain in Syngenta’s Vixeran has been identified and optimised.

“What sets the Vixeran bacterial strain apart - and makes it so applicable for field applications - is the speed at which it gets to work and its resilience to climatic conditions, which means it will provide reliable results more consistently, in a wider range of crops,” she added.

The Vixeran bacterial strain, CECT 9690, is unique in its high nitrogen fixation activity and its triple mode of action – working as a foliar and root endophyte inside the plant, as well as in the soil rhizosphere. The N is supplied exactly where required and not subject to any losses.

Over 220 arable crop trials undertaken in wheat, barley, maize, oilseed rape and potatoes, had proven yield benefits averaging over 10 per cent, with additional vegetable crop trials showing both yield and produce quality benefits, she added.

Syngenta UK technical manager and biologicals specialist, Andy Cunningham, recommends that to get the optimum performance with Vixeran crops should be actively growing at the time of application, ideally with temperatures reaching 10-12⁰C on the day of treatment to ensure rapid colonisation of the bacteria.

He suggested most growers and agronomists are likely to utilise Vixeran alongside existing nutrition inputs and to benefit from an uplift in yield from its use. “However, it is acknowledged that there is potential in a nitrogen reduction regime to compensate with Vixeran, typically up to 30 kgN/ha and still retain the same yields as a full fertiliser programme, although trials across the UK and Europe have shown that it could compensate more.”