Crop Biotech Update

WSU Researchers Speed up Nitrogen Fixation to Boost Soybean Productivity

October 19, 2016

Scientists at Washington State University developed a technique to boost the quality and yield of soybeans. Their findings, published in Current Biology, could eventually help address the critical need to feed the growing human population and at the same time protect the environment.

Scientists have been attempting to speed up nitrogen fixation in legumes by modifying the rhizobia bacterioid function or interactions. Mechthild Tegeder and other researchers took another approach by increasing the number of proteins that transport nitrogen from the rhizobia bacteria to plant's leaves, seed-producing organs and other areas where it is necessary. The additional transport proteins sped up the overall export of nitrogen from root nodules. In effect, a feedback loop was initiated that caused the rhizobia to start fixing more atmospheric nitrogen, which the plant then use to make more seeds. According to Tegederm the soybean plants become bigger, grow faster, and generally look better than conventional soybean plants.

Boosting nitrogen fixation could enhance overall plant productivity for farmers who grow legumes while reducing or eliminating nitrogen fertilizer use.

Read the media release from WSU and the research article in Current Biology.