Nitrogen is a key macro nutrient for plants. With the exception of legumes, the rest of the crops require artificially synthesised nitrogen for plant growth. But now, researchers at Washington University in St Louis have engineered bacteria that can effectively duplicate the process of fixing ambient nitrogen.
Identification of a key molecule in nitrogen-fixing bacteria likely to help reduce fertilizer use [Registered]
Researchers found that lucerne appears to use an advanced process for putting nitrogen-fixing bacteria, rhizobia, to work more effectively after they are recruited from soil to fix nitrogen in special nodules on plant roots.
Discovery of endophytes supporting nitrogen fixation in non-leguminous crops shows promise [Registered]
This endophyte-plant relationship is partly a matter of speed in adaptation. “Plants have a limited ability to genetically adapt to rapid environmental changes (heat, drought, toxins, or limited nutrients) and so they may use microbes that do have this capacity to rapidly evolve due to their vastly shorter life cycles,” she explained. “By having the right microbes for the conditions, the plants are healthier. That is how it is similar to humans taking probiotics to improve their health.”