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Research Reveals Way to Improve Nitrogen Production in Legumes

08:31 EDT 21 Jun 2017 | Meridian Institute

Researchers at the University of Kentucky, United States, are reporting a discovery regarding how legumes fix nitrogen. Legumes, due to a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria, are able to provide their own nitrogen needs and leave nitrogen in the soil for other plants to use. This ability reduces the need for nitrogen fertilizers, which can be costly and cause environmental pollution. But different legumes differ significantly in their nitrogen fixation efficiency. The team found that two antimicrobial peptides in the model legume Medicago truncatula kill certain soil bacteria as the nitrogen fixation process begins. "This finding offers scientists a strategy to improve nitrogen fixation in legumes by selecting or manipulating these genes to accept more bacteria," Hongyan Zhu, a professor in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, said. "This could potentially allow legumes to fix more nitrogen." Zhu believes these genes have evolved to manipulate certain bacteria to start the nitrogen fixation process.

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