“Roots are not the only organs performing nitrogen fixation!”

 

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It is very well known the plant-microbe interactions are crucial for the growth and development of plants. However, it has always been believed that processes like nitrogen fixation are mainly associated with microbes that colonize the roots of plants. However, a recent study by Plant microbiologist Sharon Doty and her team in the University of Washington proves otherwise.

These sedentary life forms are highly dependent on their association with microscopic life forms. This recent study published in the PLOS ONE journal suggests that microbes within poplar trees growing in rocky terrains, provide them with the valuable nutrients for their growth. The microbial communities studied from these trees were extremely diverse and varied even between neighboring cuttings on the same plant. This clearly depicts that a highly orchestrated harmony between different microbial species is extremely crucial to benefit plant growth and development. This research breaks the age old belief that nitrogen fixation occurs only in root nodules of plants. The study provides evidence that the microbes present in the branches of these trees are capable of carrying out nitrogen fixation and no root nodules are required for the purpose.

The microbes have also been found to have significant impacts on the growth of corn, tomatoes peppers, as well as turf grasses and forest trees even under low amounts of fertilizer. Gaining an insight into the precise microbial populations that help plants survive on rocks and sand could have major implications for agriculture crop and bioenergy crop productivity.

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