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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists to Use X-ray Analysis to Boost Legumes, Reduce Fertilizer Pollution

May 2, 2013

Researchers from the Center of Plant Genomics and Biotechnology at the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) and the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory are working on a project that will lessen fertilizer use by boosting the nitrogen production of legumes and similar plants. The research team used X-ray analysis to map a path to increase the amount of nitrogen that legumes deposit into the soil. They used high-energy X-rays from the 8-BM and 2-ID-E beamlines of APS to track the distribution of minute iron amounts in different developmental regions of rhizobia-containing roots.

Farmers plant legumes as a way to adding natural nitrogen to agricultural fields. Legumes use iron for nitrogen fixation, but are often grown in fields with iron-depleted soils. The team then created the world's first model that shows how iron is transported in the plant's root nodule to trigger nitrogen fixation. Manuel Gonzalez-Guerrero of UPM said that "The long-term goal is to help sustainable agriculture practices and further diminish the environmental damage from overuse of nitrogen fertilizers."

The team's report is in the Metallomics journal of The Royal Society of Chemistry. The news release is available at: http://www.anl.gov/articles/x-ray-analysis-could-boost-legumes-thus-reducing-fertilizer-pollution.