Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered

Date:
September 27, 2013
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
Nitrogen fertilizer costs US farmers approximately $8 billion each year, and excess fertilizer can find its way into rivers and streams, damaging the delicate water systems. A new discovery could be the first step toward helping crops use less nitrogen, benefiting both farmers' bottom lines and the environment.

Nitrogen fertilizer costs U.S. farmers approximately $8 billion each year, and excess fertilizer can find its way into rivers and streams, damaging the delicate water systems. Now, a discovery by a team of University of Missouri researchers could be the first step toward helping crops use less nitrogen, benefiting both farmers' bottom lines and the environment.

The journal Science published the research this month.

Gary Stacey, an investigator in the MU Bond Life Sciences Center and professor of plant sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that crops, such as corn, are "confused" when confronted with an invasive, but beneficial, bacteria known as rhizobia bacteria. When the bacteria interact correctly with a crop, the bacteria receive some food from the plant and, simultaneously, produce nitrogen that most plants need. In his study, Stacey found that many other crops recognize the bacteria, but do not attempt to interact closely with them.

"The problem is that corn, tomatoes and other crops have a different response and don't support an intimate interaction with the rhizobia, thus making farmers apply larger amounts of nitrogen than might otherwise be necessary," Stacey said. "Scientists have known about this beneficial relationship since 1888, but it only exists in legume crops, like soybeans and alfalfa. We're working to transfer this trait to other plants like corn, wheat or rice, which we believe is possible since these other plants recognize the bacteria. It's a good first step."

When legumes like soybeans sense a signal from the bacteria, they create nodules where the bacteria gather and produce atmospheric nitrogen that the plants can then use to stimulate their growth. This reaction doesn't happen in other plants.

"There's this back and forth battle between a plant and a pathogen," said Yan Liang, a co-author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at MU. "Rhizobia eventually developed a chemical to inhibit the defense response in legumes and make those plants recognize it as a friend. Meanwhile, corn, tomatoes and other crops are still trying to defend themselves against this bacteria."

In the study, Stacey and Liang treated corn, soybeans, tomatoes and other plants to see how they responded when exposed to the chemical signal from the rhizobia bacteria. They found that the plants did receive the signal and, like legumes, inhibited the normal plant immune system. However, soybeans, corn and these other plants don't complete the extra step of forming nodules to allow the bacteria to thrive.

"The important finding was that these other plants didn't just ignore the rhizobia bacteria," Stacey said. "They recognized it, but just activated a different mechanism. Our next step is to determine how we can make the plants understand that this is a beneficial relationship and get them to activate a different mechanism that will produce the nodules that attract the bacteria instead of trying to fight them."

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. For more information about this research, please visit: http://decodingscience.missouri.edu/2013/09/the-secret-of-the-legume.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Y. Liang, Y. Cao, K. Tanaka, S. Thibivilliers, J. Wan, J. Choi, C. h. Kang, J. Qiu, G. Stacey. Nonlegumes Respond to Rhizobial Nod Factors by Suppressing the Innate Immune Response. Science, 2013; 341 (6152): 1384 DOI: 10.1126/science.1242736

Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130927183314.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2013, September 27). First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130927183314.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "First step to reduce plant need for nitrogen fertilizer uncovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130927183314.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Monkeys Are Better At Math Than We Thought, Study Shows

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) A Harvard University study suggests monkeys can use symbols to perform basic math calculations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) A leopard caused panic in the city of Chandrapur on Monday when it sprung from the roof of a house and charged at rescue workers. (April 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs

AP (Apr. 22, 2014) Drake University hosts 35th annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins