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 Sustainable forest management contributes more to climate protection than forest wilderness
07.02.2020 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

nachricht Microscopic partners could help plants survive stressful environments
30.01.2020 | Washington State 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: A step towards controlling spin-dependent petahertz electronics by material defects

The operational speed of semiconductors in various electronic and optoelectronic devices is limited to several gigahertz (a billion oscillations per second). This constrains the upper limit of the operational speed of computing. Now researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay have explained how these processes can be sped up through the use of light waves and defected solid materials.

Light waves perform several hundred trillion oscillations per second. Hence, it is natural to envision employing light oscillations to drive the electronic...

Im Focus: Freiburg researcher investigate the origins of surface texture

Most natural and artificial surfaces are rough: metals and even glasses that appear smooth to the naked eye can look like jagged mountain ranges under the microscope. There is currently no uniform theory about the origin of this roughness despite it being observed on all scales, from the atomic to the tectonic. Scientists suspect that the rough surface is formed by irreversible plastic deformation that occurs in many processes of mechanical machining of components such as milling.

Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Simulation group at the Department of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg and his team have simulated such...

Im Focus: Skyrmions like it hot: Spin structures are controllable even at high temperatures

Investigation of the temperature dependence of the skyrmion Hall effect reveals further insights into possible new data storage devices

The joint research project of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that had previously demonstrated...

Im Focus: Making the internet more energy efficient through systemic optimization

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, recently completed a 5-year research project looking at how to make fibre optic communications systems more energy efficient. Among their proposals are smart, error-correcting data chip circuits, which they refined to be 10 times less energy consumptive. The project has yielded several scientific articles, in publications including Nature Communications.

Streaming films and music, scrolling through social media, and using cloud-based storage services are everyday activities now.

Im Focus: New synthesis methods enhance 3D chemical space for drug discovery

After helping develop a new approach for organic synthesis -- carbon-hydrogen functionalization -- scientists at Emory University are now showing how this approach may apply to drug discovery. Nature Catalysis published their most recent work -- a streamlined process for making a three-dimensional scaffold of keen interest to the pharmaceutical industry.

"Our tools open up whole new chemical space for potential drug targets," says Huw Davies, Emory professor of organic chemistry and senior author of the paper.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

70th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Around 70 Laureates set to meet with young scientists from approx. 100 countries

12.02.2020 | Event News

11th Advanced Battery Power Conference, March 24-25, 2020 in Münster/Germany

16.01.2020 | Event News

Laser Colloquium Hydrogen LKH2: fast and reliable fuel cell manufacturing

15.01.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Active droplets

21.02.2020 | Medical Engineering

Finding new clues to brain cancer treatment

21.02.2020 | Health and Medicine

Beyond the brim, Sombrero Galaxy's halo suggests turbulent past

21.02.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>