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Nitrogen-fixing Genes Can Be Used To Grow More Food With Fewer Resources

Baoji Herbest Bio-Tech Co.,Ltd | Updated: Apr 08, 2020

"There is growing interest in reducing the amount of agricultural fertilizer used because it is expensive, has a negative impact on the environment and requires a lot of energy," said co-author John Peters, director of the institute of biochemistry at WSU. Worldwide, there are huge benefits to developing ways to increase the contribution of biological nitrogen fixation to crop production."

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The team's research could help share the symbiotic benefits of legumes, which farmers have relied on for centuries to naturally enrich the soil。


Legumes, such as chickpeas and lentils, require far less fertilizer than other crops because they form a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria that grow in their root tissue. These bacteria convert nitrogen into ammonia through a process called biological nitrogen fixation.


Bacteria take nitrogen from the air and turn it into ammonia, which plants need to grow. Plants, in turn, provide carbon and other nutrients for microbes.


众购彩票登陆In order to work together, legumes and microbes have evolved to send signals that everyone can understand. When bacteria need fixed nitrogen, plants send out chemical signals to them. The bacteria produce a similar signal that lets plants know when to use carbon.


To develop synthetic methods for symbiosis between other bacteria and crops, scientists worked to identify gene groups in bacteria that fix nitrogen and then add those gene groups to other bacteria。


"It's just one step, although it's a big step on the road, to figure out how to promote biological nitrogen fixation to make a bigger and bigger contribution to crop production," Peters said. Peters and WSU are co-leaders on the project with Philip Poole, a colleague at the University of Oxford in the UK.


Reducing fertiliser demand could have a huge impact on food supplies, energy use and agricultural costs around the world. Fertilizer is too expensive for many farmers around the world. Without them, many nutritionally valuable foods would not be grown in many areas because of the lack of nitrogen in the soil.


"The goal is to increase food production and help feed the world," Peters said. In less developed countries, switching from food production to using no nitrogen-based fertilizers could be a huge development. Adding these microbes is like pouring kombucha on the root."


众购彩票登陆Peters' lab specializes in studying the metabolic processes of bacteria, or how they create and use energy。 His lab provides a blueprint for the role of nitrogen fixation in different organisms。 Then his co-author, a synthetic biologist at the Massachusetts institute of technology, could create the mechanisms needed for microbes and plants。


"It's a complex and wide-ranging challenge that requires a large team with different areas of expertise," says Peters。 But if we succeed, the rewards for the planet could be huge。"


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