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Soybean Research May Reduce the Need for Nitrogen Fertilizer

Nitrogen is a nutrient that helps plant growth, yet overuse of nitrogen fertilizers can harm the environment. Mechthild Tegeder, a biologist with Washington State University (WSU), has developed a way to increase soybean quality and yield by using the plant’s unique ability to pull nitrogen from the air.

Unlike crops that rely on natural and artificial nitrogen in soil, soybeans and other legumes contain rhizobia bacterioids in their root nodules that convert nitrogen gas from the atmosphere.

Tegeder’s research team created a model to increase the flow of nitrogen from specialized bacteria in soybean root nodules to the seed-producing organs. Tegeder and biological sciences graduate Amanda Carter discovered that the plants grew more when exposed to increased rates of nitrogen.

“The biggest implication of our research is that by ramping up the natural nitrogen allocation process we can increase the amount of food we produce without contributing to further agricultural pollution,” said Tegeder. “Eventually we would like to transfer what we have learned to other legumes and plants that humans grow for food.”

Read more about the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) WSU research.

Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Agriculture systems and technology;
Bioenergy, natural resources, and environment
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