Legume Lessons: Reducing Fertilizer Use

A research team has been awarded $6.8 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the legume Medicago truncatula.

Janine Sherrier, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware, leads one of four research groups participating in this project, which represents a collaborative effort between researchers at the Noble Foundation, the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University, the University of Delaware, and the University of North Texas.

“The aim of this large project is to generate resources for the U.S. and international research communities.” Said Sherrier, “We will generate resources to help accelerate the transfer of fundamental laboratory research results into useful applications for crop production.”

 

In past years, the NSF has supported projects to sequence the complete genomes of organisms, including M. truncatula. The resources generated by this new NSF grant will help researchers define the roles of all of the individual genes within the genome and to clarify how they are important for legume growth.

“Legumes, such as beans and lentils, provide one third of the protein consumed as part of the human diet globally,” she said, “legumes also contribute fiber and micronutrients to the human diet and are utilized widely as forage crops for livestock.”

M. truncatula has been selected as a research model to study the symbiotic relationships that are characteristic of legumes. Unlike many species of plants, legumes rely on interactions with rhizobia (naturally-occurring beneficial microbes) to supply them with nitrogen. Many crops are supplemented with industrially produced nitrogen fertilizer, and the synthesis of the fertilizer is an energy-intensive process.

“As much as 4% of the world’s natural gas is consumed in the production of nitrogen fertilizers, releasing carbon dioxide by-products into the atmosphere,” said Sherrier.

When nitrogen is not present at sufficient levels in the soil to support plant growth, legumes create a home for beneficial bacteria in their roots. The plant develops a novel root organ where bacteria can grow, multiply and enter the plant cell, and within the plant cells the bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen into a fertilizer for the plant. This greatly reduces the amount of fertilizer and energy necessary to produce a successful crop, lowers production costs for farmers and reduces runoff of fertilizers into the groundwater.

The focus of Sherrier’s research program is on the protein-to-protein interactions that are necessary for such beneficial plant-bacteria relationships to occur. “If the plant lacks a specific protein, then this can allow bacteria to enter the plant and simply take the sugar without producing anything in return. This would be detrimental for a crop,” she explained.

As part of the NSF-funded project, Sherrier’s team will also be developing and teaching a 4-H summer camp across Delaware to teach children about how different microbes are important for agriculture. Campers will participate in science-based activities, such as using microscopes and making yogurt. The camps will contribute to the development of future growers in all three counties.

 

Source: May 9, 2012 Newswise Press Release.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
anti-GMO corn spoof via social media
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Social Media Posts On GMOs Falling Flat [Opinion]
Hopefully, the hysteria the West has perpetuated on genetic engineeriing will not stifle the potential of moving our production forward enough to help feed a growing global population. Read More
Photo credit: USDA
Fruits
May 24, 2016
Organic Sales Hit Record Of $43.3 Billion In 2015
Organic Trade Association says organic fruits and vegetables logged sales of $14.4 billion. Read More
non-gmo label leafy greens
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Report Says GMOs Offer No Risk To Human Health
The study stresses the need for proper resistance management, the need for a different ways to evaluate all new crop varieties, regardless of process in which they were developed. Read More
Florida Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam checks out prepared school lunches. School meals are looking more colorful these days as fresh produce finds a place on the tray.
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Full-Time Effort Required To Feed Farm-To-School Programs
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gives a shout-out to those providing fuel to kids during the school year as well as the summer months. Read More
Photo credit: USDA
Citrus
May 23, 2016
World Health Organization Experts: Glyphosate Not Carcinogenic
Risk unlikely when consuming crops treated with herbicide. Read More
Food safety meeting for growers in Florida
Citrus
May 23, 2016
Florida Growers Putting Food Safety On Front Burner
Specialty crop industry stakeholders hungry to understand what’s ahead as FDA begins implementing new food safety rules. Read More
Example of cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus
Cucurbits
May 21, 2016
Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder Virus Cases Flaring In South Florida
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this vegetable disease. Read More
nutcracker crunching down on a walnut
Nuts
May 20, 2016
Bank Predicts A Roller Coaster Ride For Tree Nut Industry
Supply expected to grow by more than one-third in next five years, but decreasing demand may lower prices. Read More
Participants of a Citrus Health Roundtable hosted by Yara International pose for a post-event photo.
Insect & Disease Update
May 20, 2016
Yara International Pledges $100,000 To Support Florida Agriculture Students
Scholarship will fund University of Florida undergraduate and graduate students. Read More
South Florida farmland
Citrus
May 20, 2016
Florida Farmland Becoming Big Deal For Institutional Investors
Real estate values in the Sunshine State dictated by money looking for a home. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Social Media Posts On GMOs Falling Flat …
Hopefully, the hysteria the West has perpetuated on genetic engineeriing will not stifle the potential of moving our production forward enough to help feed a growing global population. Read More
Fruits
May 24, 2016
Organic Sales Hit Record Of $43.3 Billio…
Organic Trade Association says organic fruits and vegetables logged sales of $14.4 billion. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Report Says GMOs Offer No Risk To Human …
The study stresses the need for proper resistance management, the need for a different ways to evaluate all new crop varieties, regardless of process in which they were developed. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Full-Time Effort Required To Feed Farm-T…
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gives a shout-out to those providing fuel to kids during the school year as well as the summer months. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2016
World Health Organization Experts: Glyph…
Risk unlikely when consuming crops treated with herbicide. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2016
Florida Growers Putting Food Safety On F…
Specialty crop industry stakeholders hungry to understand what’s ahead as FDA begins implementing new food safety rules. Read More
Cucurbits
May 21, 2016
Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder Virus …
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this vegetable disease. Read More
Nuts
May 20, 2016
Bank Predicts A Roller Coaster Ride For …
Supply expected to grow by more than one-third in next five years, but decreasing demand may lower prices. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
May 20, 2016
Yara International Pledges $100,000 To S…
Scholarship will fund University of Florida undergraduate and graduate students. Read More
Citrus
May 20, 2016
Florida Farmland Becoming Big Deal For I…
Real estate values in the Sunshine State dictated by money looking for a home. Read More
Citrus
May 19, 2016
Bayer Makes Bid For Monsanto
Monsanto says proposal is being reviewed by board of directors as well as legal and financial advisors. Read More
GenNext Growers
May 19, 2016
Get To Know Rory Crowley Of The Almond L…
The assistant operations manager and director of business and research development for the Nicolaus Nut Company, Rory Crowley talks about how the Almond Leadership Program helped him prepare for the future. Read More
Disease Control
May 19, 2016
Native Plants Reduce Need For Vineyard W…
Scientists in eastern Washington are finding drought-tolerant alternatives to roses at the end of vineyard rows that not only save Read More
Grapes
May 18, 2016
Minnesota Has New Cold-Hardy, Lower-Acid…
The University of Minnesota has released a new cold-hardy grape that holds promise for winemakers wanting to make dryer wines Read More
Farm Management
May 17, 2016
Tour De Fresh Cycling Event Will Raise F…
The goal for 2016 is to place 50 additional salad bars in schools across the country. Read More
Citrus
May 17, 2016
$130 Million In Funds For Fruit And Vege…
USDA allocates funds for Extension, organic production, food safety, and technology grants. Read More
Citrus
May 17, 2016
Border Protection Intercepts New Leafhop…
First of its kind found in European shipment. Read More
GenNext Growers
May 17, 2016
More Growers Going High-Tech Down On The…
Embracing new tools and technology will be key in driving productivity forward. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]