Chemical fertilizers contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, prompting MIT researchers to develop a protective coating for bacteria that can be used as a more sustainable alternative. This coating allows bacteria to be easily distributed and withstands heat up to 132 degrees Fahrenheit. The process could make it easier and cheaper for farmers to use microbes as fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers have a significant carbon footprint, and long-term use depletes soil nutrients. Some farmers have turned to “regenerative agriculture,” including using nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The researchers created a metal-organic coating that protects bacteria from heat and drying, with promising results. The coated bacteria improved seed germination by 150 percent in lab tests. The lead author has started a company to commercialize the coated bacteria for regenerative agriculture, with aspirations for accessibility and affordability for small-scale farmers. The research was supported by various grants and programs.

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