Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Beans and fungus may improve corn crop without expensive fertilizer

07.08.2002


Corn, the preferred staple crop in many countries, requires large amounts of nitrogen for its growth. Usually fertilizer is necessary to sustain good yields. A Penn State graduate student, Ylva Besmer, is trying to find ways to improve corn yield for subsistence farmers in Zimbabwe without fertilizer.



"The government of Zimbabwe no longer provides a subsidy for fertilizer, resulting in significantly lower corn yields" says Besmer, a doctoral candidate in ecology. "The old-fashion use of legumes (members of the bean family) in crop rotations may prove to be a solution to this problem because of their ability to fix nitrogen and, thus, provide nitrogen for subsequently grown corn. We have shown in Zimbabwe, however, that legume growth and nitrogen fixation can be limited by the availability of phosphorus in the soil."

In order to improve nitrogen fixation in legumes, somehow phosphorus availability has to be increased.


"Mycorrhizal fungi are common in nature. They colonize the roots of many plant species including legumes. These fungi live symbiotically with their hosts, absorbing phosphorus from the soil, and transporting it to the root systems. In preliminary tests we have shown that enhanced mycorrhizal colonization of a number of legumes grown in soil from Zimbabwe increases nitrogen content indirectly by increasing phosphorus uptake," she told attendees today (Aug. 7) at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Tucson, Ariz.

"We first used peanut because it is a legume that is commonly grown by subsistence farmers. Peanut growth and nitrogen content was strongly limited by phosphorus availability, and by amending the soil with mycorrhizal fungi, peanut nitrogen content was significantly increased," reported Besmer.

The Penn State researcher is working with Roger Koide, professor of horticultural ecology, and Robert Myers, soil scientist with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT), to find ways to increase the abundance of the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi in Zimbabwean soils.

"In temperate agro-ecosystems, mycorrhizal fungal abundance can be increased by reducing fallow periods and tillage," explained Besmer. "We want to take these lessons learned from temperate systems and try to apply them appropriately to the semi-arid tropics to increase mycorrhizal fungal activity.

"While peanut was a logical crop to study, it may not be the best legume to use in Zimbabwe to enhance soil fertility for corn production because most of the nitrogen resides in the nut, which is harvested and removed from the soil. Another legume, commonly called lablab, looks promising because it grows more vigorously and its stems and leaves contain more nitrogen," he adds. "The best way to use any legume to increase soil fertility is to plow most of the plant back into the soil or let animals graze on the plants and allow their manure naturally to fertilize the field. For subsistence farmers in the semi-arid tropics, the proper selection of legumes coupled with simple practices to increase the abundance of naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi could sustain or increase corn yields without fertilizers."


The National Geographic Society, Penn State and ICRISAT support the research of Ylva Besmer.

Andrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Microjet generator for highly viscous fluids
13.02.2018 | Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

nachricht Sweet route to greater yields
08.02.2018 | Rothamsted Research

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>