Black eyed peas could help eliminate need for fertilizer: Popular legume attracts beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria

Modern farming practices don't affect the ability of black eyed peas to attract beneficialbacteria. It could be planted in rotation with other crops to help growers avoid the need for expensive and harmful fertilizers.

Plants won't grow if there isn't enough nitrogen. Black eyed peas are part of a plant family that is unique in their ability to obtain substantial amounts of it by attracting and protecting nitrogen-fixingbacteria.

The ability of legumes to do this made them the third biggest plant family on the planet.

When growing crops, people tend to focus on above-ground traits like yield and disease resistance. The ability of plants to attract soil- enhancing microbes is a below-ground trait that growers have begun to pay closer attention to.

Black eyed peas, a hugely popular food in many parts of the world, may not be able to attract goodbacteria after being subjected to modern farming practices. Plants impacted by humans don't benefit as much from relationships withbacteria as their wild relatives.

The peas were found to have good relationships with nitrogen-fixingbacteria. Some of the strains in the experiment seem to have gained more benefit frombacteria than their wild ancestors.

The results of this research have just been published. The 20 different types of black-eyed peas were involved in the experiments.

In the future, we can use this information to design better plants. He and his team focused on black-eyed peas because they are also tolerant of water shortages.

Black-eyed peas emit chemicals through their roots. The rhizobia are supplied with carbon when the roots form tumors. Black eyes peas get a fixed form of nitrogen in return.

When the plant senses it is going to die, it releases thebacteria into the soil to replenish it. The soil could be left full of nitrogen-fixingbacteria that reduce the need forfertilizer if growers alternate seasons of legumes with other crops.

Excess nitrogen can end up in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas or be washed out into lakes, rivers and oceans if it is applied too fast. Nitrogen feeds harmful blooms that use up all the oxygen in the water.

One way to make agriculture more sustainable is to focus on the plant's ability to get services from the soil, rather than trying to get those services by dumping chemicals.

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The materials were provided by the University of California. Jules Bernstein wrote the original. Content can be edited for style and length.