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 How much drought can a forest take?
20.01.2017 | University of California - Davis

nachricht Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>