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

CitrusForecast: South Florida Dry Season May See Fair Share Of Damp Days
October 31, 2014
Outlook calls for possible above-normal precipitation around region for fall and winter months. Read More
ProductionDrought Forcing California Growers To Rely On Groundwater
October 31, 2014
While the state issues curtailments to those with junior rights, growers are increasingly relying on groundwater to irrigate their crop. Read More
Crop ProtectionThe Unlikely Parallel Between Human And Plant Health
October 31, 2014
One of the notable national developments in the summer of 2014 was the unexpected occurrence of serious respiratory infections in Read More
VegetablesWhy You Should Be Trialing New Vegetable Varieties
October 31, 2014
Selecting high-performing selections is no easy task. Read More
FruitsCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
CucurbitsNew Watermelon Planting Program For The Southeast U.S.
October 30, 2014
Sakata seeking to make regional impact by providing in-demand material through several local producers. Read More
Leafy Vegetables3 Can’t-Miss Cabbage Varieties For Florida Growers
October 30, 2014
Reed's Seeds highlights a trio of high-performance selections for Sunshine State producers. Read More
Insect ControlTake Control Of Thrips In Your Greenhouse
October 30, 2014
Why such a foreboding title? Thrips, one of the tiniest pests of greenhouse crops, are the carrier of one of Read More
BerriesManage Black Root Rot Of Strawberry
October 30, 2014
Controls include preplant nematode analysis, three-to-five year crop rotations, and more. Read More
FruitsSexual Evolution May Bear More Fruit In The Orchard
October 30, 2014
Scientists take a closer look at genes and find new plant breeding possibilities. Read More

The Latest

CitrusForecast: South Florida Dry Season May See Fair Share O…
October 31, 2014
Outlook calls for possible above-normal precipitation around region for fall and winter months. Read More
ProductionDrought Forcing California Growers To Rely On Groundwat…
October 31, 2014
While the state issues curtailments to those with junior rights, growers are increasingly relying on groundwater to irrigate their crop. Read More
Crop ProtectionThe Unlikely Parallel Between Human And Plant Health
October 31, 2014
One of the notable national developments in the summer of 2014 was the unexpected occurrence of serious respiratory infections in Read More
VegetablesWhy You Should Be Trialing New Vegetable Varieties
October 31, 2014
Selecting high-performing selections is no easy task. Read More
FruitsCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
CucurbitsNew Watermelon Planting Program For The Southeast U.S.
October 30, 2014
Sakata seeking to make regional impact by providing in-demand material through several local producers. Read More
Leafy Vegetables3 Can’t-Miss Cabbage Varieties For Florida Grower…
October 30, 2014
Reed's Seeds highlights a trio of high-performance selections for Sunshine State producers. Read More
Insect ControlTake Control Of Thrips In Your Greenhouse
October 30, 2014
Why such a foreboding title? Thrips, one of the tiniest pests of greenhouse crops, are the carrier of one of Read More
BerriesManage Black Root Rot Of Strawberry
October 30, 2014
Controls include preplant nematode analysis, three-to-five year crop rotations, and more. Read More
FruitsSexual Evolution May Bear More Fruit In The Orchard
October 30, 2014
Scientists take a closer look at genes and find new plant breeding possibilities. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Apples To Restart Shipments To China
October 29, 2014
Agreement reached between U.S. and Chinese governments to reinstate market access after two-year absence. Read More
EquipmentEnter To Win A Kubota At The Washington State Horticult…
October 29, 2014
Attendees have a chance to take home a new utility vehicle courtesy of Wilbur-Ellis and Western Fruit Grower. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
The funds will go toward helping growers implement conservation practices to improve honey bee health. Read More
FruitsHuge California Drought Meeting Planned
October 29, 2014
State, federal officials to meet as forecasts for the coming year look bleak. Read More
PotatoesNew CEO At Black Gold Farms, A Top 100 Grower
October 28, 2014
Eric Halverson takes the reins at the potato operation, while his father Gregg will remain president of the farm’s board of directors. Read More
FruitsValent U.S.A., MGK Enter Into Marketing Agreement
October 28, 2014
Valent U.S.A. to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products beginning in April 2015. Read More
VegetablesMultistate Land-Grant University Research Project Contr…
October 28, 2014
The project began in the 1970s as a Regional Initiative and has since expanded Internationally. Read More
FruitsMichigan State Offers Online Database Of Tree Fruit Dis…
October 28, 2014
Search engine helps growers identify several issues in the orchard. Read More