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Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria That Can Colonize Most Plants Discovered

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the watch-out-for-miracle-gro-assassins dept.

Biotech 187

Zothecula writes "Synthetic crop fertilizers are a huge source of pollution. This is particularly true when they're washed from fields (or leach out of them) and enter our waterways. Unfortunately, most commercial crops need the fertilizer, because it provides the nitrogen that they require to survive. Now, however, a scientist at the University of Nottingham has developed what he claims is an environmentally-friendly process, that allows virtually any type of plant to obtain naturally-occurring nitrogen directly from the atmosphere." The process involves injecting a bacteria that colonizes the plant and fixes atmospheric nitrogen in exchange for a bit of sugar, similar to soybeans. Only this bacteria will readily colonize most any plant.

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Let me guess... (1, Troll)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#44419169)

Monsanto or DuPont.

Re:Let me guess... (5, Informative)

adminstring (608310) | about a year ago | (#44419203)

Let me read TFA... Azotic Technologies.

Re:Let me guess... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419367)

GMO, Devil, Evil, Bad, KILLING HUMANITY!!! Organic Only!!!!!!!!

Re:Let me guess... (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44419759)

GMO, Devil, Evil, Bad, KILLING HUMANITY!!! Organic Only!!!!!!!!

Oh, but this was discovered in Europe, or at least England, so its ok. No problem.

Unless or until its licensed exclusively by Monsanto, then, EVIL AGAIN!

Re: Let me guess... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419413)

not for long!

Quick! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419499)

1.Patent it
2.Spread it
3.Sue everybody on the planet and beyond
4.???
5.Profit!

Re:Quick! (3, Interesting)

gmanterry (1141623) | about a year ago | (#44419723)

What if this thing gets out of hand and plants start to become larger as they are fed more nitrogen. We could become overrun with weed type plants that we can't control. Almost everything has unintended consequences. From the laws made in Congress to the modification of plants.

Re:Quick! (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44419767)

Weed Whackers and mowers will still work.
World Food shortage solved.
Bigger healthier plants consume more CO2.
Worlds problems solved... hugs and kisses all around.

And besides this was discovered in Europe [nottingham.ac.uk] , so its automatically safe. (/snort).

Re:Quick! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44420147)

There is chance that local populous will become gay.(it's European, remember?)
Long term world hunger problem solved.

Oh boy, I am proud to be gayropean

Re:Quick! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44420183)

Are you a russian, paid by Putin to spread hate propaganda?

Re:Quick! (3, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#44419781)

Oh god, we already are! (It's called grass.)

A little more seriously, they're doing field trials now, so we'll probably know soon enough.

As far as I can tell, the process is clumsy enough (the seeds have to be pre-impregnated in the lab with the bacteria) that this is a rather small risk.

Re:Quick! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419795)

Yes, let us sit in our caves and not even come out, or draw on walls... who knows what will happen, so we must do nothing, revert back to sticks and stones, or tooth and nail even better!

Re:Quick! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419953)

If that happens, then presumably the plants will suck more carbon out of the air and fix global warming. So that's still an advantage.

The other advantage, obviously, is that we get to live in a lush green jungle of giant ferns and stuff, like in Avatar.

Re:Let me guess... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419695)

All niggers need to be rounded up and executed. Worthless fucking apes. I would LOVE to kill a nigger slowly, watch it in horrible pain and then watch as the life drains out of its eyes.

Kill all shitskins.

Re:Let me guess... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419729)

Kill all filthy, smelly wetbacks too. Worthless fucking Mexicans are a waste of life and should all be terminated.

I punched a little Mexican boy in the face the other day and laughed as he cried and bled. I just wish its parents were there so I could stab them in the face.

Re:Let me guess... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44420155)

MMM, i i have a hard on. I am imaging how id mess your face and cum on it once your body is on the ground and is not moving...
Sincerely yours,
Big Gay European...

Re:Let me guess... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419981)

You worthless piece of trash, you don't have the temerity to say that crap in public.

so we're obsolete (4, Funny)

drwho (4190) | about a year ago | (#44419181)

Animals are now obsolete. The plants can kill us off now, watch our for your cucumbers and geraniums.

Re:so we're obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419261)

I believe there was an incredibly stupid movie (M. Night Shamalamalalamahohehehe I think) about that a few years ago. Once again, life imitates art.

Re:so we're obsolete (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44419811)

Axel Pressbutton. Comic book. He was half eaten by plants, including his junk. No he gets off by having his 'button pressed' and hates all plants.

Green apocalypse (1, Troll)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about a year ago | (#44419197)

With a bacteria that can infect plants and cause them to suck nitrogen out of the air... let out of control on a large scale, this may affect the world in a drastic way, much like how the first oxygen producing microbes first appeared on earth.

Re:Green apocalypse (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419297)

Hardly -- you're overestimating the role of land plants in the ecosystem. Most nitrogen fixation is done by cyanobacteria in the oceans.

Also, nitrogen fixation hasn't led to a depletion of nitrogen in the atmosphere, because there are whole families of denitrifying bacteria that make a living reducing nitrate back to N2 (a process which is much easier than going the other way).

Re:Green apocalypse (4, Informative)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about a year ago | (#44420075)

This is a key part of permaculture, using plants that establish such relationships to build soil mass. Members of the legume family, peas and beans, already do this. So do trees like Russian Olive. These plants are capable of demonstrating "weedy" like behavior in that they can land in places that have nothing, establish a toe hold and grow and build soil as they die over generations. So, if you're an environmentalist who is horrified that "icky algae" is being displaced by something new, you might hate these types of plants, but really, they are pioneering plants that build fertility. I spent a lot of time researching what types of plants with these characteristics would grow in my local area because I'm interested in building a "Food Forest". Look up some of Geoff Lawton's videos on the subject, it's fascinating stuff.

The idea that something like this is a threat is kind of laughable. It would be an incredible boon. People are already purchasing bacteria and rubbing it into their seeds to give them a good start, but the bacteria only form the necessary symbiotic relationship on a small selection of plants.

I'll be sharing this with some of the folks at the local community farm I'm involved with who know more about the subject than I and see what they make of it, that's for sure...

I read it as they can "colonize most planets" (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419205)

Massive let down when I realized it wasn't a breakthrough in terraforming! :((((

Re:I read it as they can "colonize most planets" (2)

Urza9814 (883915) | about a year ago | (#44419219)

I was just gonna say the same thing! Also the headline says 'discovered', the summary says 'developed'...I thought this was possible 'Earth life was seeded from another planet!' stuff. I mean why else say 'colonize most planets' instead of 'extremophile' or something? Such a letdown!

What could possibly go wrong? (3, Insightful)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year ago | (#44419223)

Seriously? What's wrong with using nitrogen fixing plants to fill the soil with nitrogen? Yeah .. it's much more fun to engineer your own plant effects but it can have unknown side effects. If you're going to try to get rid of artificial fertilizers, shouldn't you be ensuring that your solution is sustainable? Creating and distributing large quantities of bacteria with unknown long term effects is not a known quantity and hence .. is not a sustainable solution.

May as well keep spraying artificial fertilizers, at least we know how that degrades the soil.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419283)

If people used sustainable practices -- cover crops, rotating or mixing in nitrogen-fixing plants, etc. -- then exactly how would chemical companies benefit?

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about a year ago | (#44419295)

What could go wrong is massive dead zones [sciencedaily.com] from fertilizer use. This doesn't have to be perfect, just better. Biological agriculture is the future.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (5, Informative)

Doubting Sapien (2448658) | about a year ago | (#44419539)

I think you guys are misunderstanding what is being accomplished here. Using nitrogen fixing bacteria instead of artificial fertilizer means you *DON'T* have excess nitrates leaching out into the environment. The bacteria acts locally - usually right at the roots of the plant where it has colonized in return for being fed with sugars by the host. It is a truly balanced symbiotic relationship that is self-regulating.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about a year ago | (#44419661)

That's exactly what I was getting at. There are already problems with fertilizer use. New ways of utilizing nitrogen fixing bacteria could provide a superior alternative, or at least cut the need for fertilizers.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44419821)

Exactly.

Because its not the nitrogen fixing that is the problem, its all the other side effects of artificial fertilization that we could avoid.
As it is, some crop land gets planted in clover or alfalfa once in a while to fix nitrogen in the soil.

By the way Alfalfa [wikipedia.org] already fixes nitrogen with the help of a bacteria:

Like other legumes, its root nodules contain bacteria, Sinorhizobium meliloti, with the ability to fix nitrogen, producing a high-protein feed regardless of available nitrogen in the soil.[17] Its nitrogen-fixing ability (which increases soil nitrogen) and its use as an animal feed greatly improve agricultural efficiency.

So this discovery is actually nothing new, just a more versatile strain of bacteria.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44419683)

If I had mod points... well you would have +3 insightful by now.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Ferrofluid (2979761) | about a year ago | (#44419745)

I think what ChromeAeonium was saying is that this is better than using traditional fertilizers, specifically because it wouldn't result in dead zones.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419739)

Except that claim is entirely wrong. Artificial fertilizer has absolutely nothing to do with it. Farmers would never waste money on fertilizer that just gets washed away. The nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients that are causing dead zones come from the massive amounts of those substances that are naturally found in the huge amounts of topsoil in those areas. What has made them a problem recently is the installation of underground drainage systems, which prevents flooding from killing crops, but makes it so the water isn't filtered through bedrock before reaching the Mississippi.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (3, Informative)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about a year ago | (#44419977)

Farmers would never waste money on fertilizer that just gets washed away.

It really isn't a flat out waste so much as an inefficiency. The more fertilizer you use, the higher your yield, but the lower the fertilizer uptake rate of the plant. To use a simplified example, if you apply a kilogram of fertilizer, a group of plants might take up .5kg, but if you apply 2kg, the plants might only uptake .9kg, which means that the plants are getting more nutrients overall but are using a smaller portion of what is applied as the applied amount rises.. Of course farmers don't spend time and money they don't have to on unnecessary fertilizer, it is just that efficiency drops as usage increases, which is why nutrient use efficiency research is important.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (2)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44419429)

There's one obvious way to find out. Try it and see what happens.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419611)

There's one obvious way to find out. Try it and see what happens.

Yeah, like introducing silver carp into rivers and ponds to control algae. That worked out real well, so it's we can put that failed experiment behind us. Oops, I guess we can't.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419713)

Look, there's a solution to that. All we have to do is eventually get the answer to be Gorillas, and then they'll die off in the Winter.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (4, Interesting)

ThatsLoseNotLoose (719462) | about a year ago | (#44419701)

I'm sure you're joking.

But just in case you're not, read the terrifying account of Klebsiella planticola [mst.edu] .

Had they just released it to see what would happen, we might all be starving to death right now.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419467)

Actually it is the epitome of sustainable once they get loose they will naturally spread and fertilize all our plants forever. The long term effect is that plants will get more nutrient. The long long term effect might be that plants begin evolving to become completely reliant on the bacteria, and if they fail somehow could cause a mass plant die off. I doubt we will be around for that though.

Great, now what about phosphorous? (4, Interesting)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about a year ago | (#44419233)

Plants need phosphorous almost as much as they need nitrogen. Currently, we're using mined sources of phosphorous as fertilizer--and there is a finite supply of really good phosphorous sources.

Potassium (the third major plant nutrient) we can extract from seawater without any problems, but the seawater concentration of phosphorous is much lower.

So what do we do about phosphorous?

--PeterM

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419277)

Well we can start by getting rid of cemetaries and graveyards, and stop cremating people. Definitely stop embalming them. Dead animal bodies are an excellent source of phosphorus as well as many other fertilizers, and lots of people die every single day.

Re: Great, now what about phosphorous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419391)

Does that mean when saying grace they should thank grandpa for making their vegetables grow better and more delicious?

Re: Great, now what about phosphorous? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419445)

sorry moron, thousands of years of evolution have taught us not to bury dead people in the garden.

Re: Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44419727)

I'm _pretty_ sure that we could devise a safe way to extract phosphorous from dead bodies. Maybe science wasn't up to that task when we "evolved", but it certainly is by now.

Also, we "evolved" bathing in our drinking water supply.

Re: Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

redneckmother (1664119) | about a year ago | (#44419951)

I'm _pretty_ sure that we could devise a safe way to extract phosphorous from dead bodies. Maybe science wasn't up to that task when we "evolved", but it certainly is by now.

Also, we "evolved" bathing in our drinking water supply.

Ahh, phosphorus pentoxide...wait - what? Why am I having a flashback to Burgess' "The Wanting Seed"?

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419521)

Do you realize that that is just a step away from Soilen Green!

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44419719)

I would like it better to be eaten (by proxy) than being used to grow grass... Please bury me under a garden when I die.

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44419851)

I prefer: Chopped then frozen into manageable blocks. Then taken deep sea fishing and used as chum while my friends drink, talk shit about me and fish.

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44419897)

That is also an acceptable outcome, as long as people I care about benefits form my chemicals when I don't need them and have some good time with them.

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#44419909)

I just hope nobody pulls my junk out of the ocean on a hook.

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44419997)

Once dead, it is the last thing that would bother me...

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

bosef1 (208943) | about a year ago | (#44419633)

Wasn't that mentioned in "Brave New World". Didn't they have special filters on the chimneys at the crematoria for capturing the phosphorous and calcium for fertilizer?

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44419731)

I remember a lot from the book and movie, but not that detail. Sound more like a F451 thing than BNW... I may well be wrong though.

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (4, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#44420063)

I remember reading "Life's Bottleneck" by Issac Asimov. He calculates that if life expands and uses the elements in the entire crust of the earth, the phosphorus will be exhausted first, before carbon, nitrogen, or even trace elements like iodine and selenium. Phosphorus is life's bottleneck.

But there is a big difference between fertilizing with phosphorus and nitrogen. You only need to add phosphorus once, and then only enough annually to replace what is taken out with the crop, which is usually not much. It is a permanent addition to the soil. But the nitrogen is consumed and returned to the atmosphere as the plants grow and then decay. You need to replenish it every year, either with fertilizer or legumes.

Is cremation a problem? (2)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#44419967)

Well we can start by getting rid of cemetaries and graveyards, and stop cremating people.

Um... apropos of nothing, how does cremation affect the phosphorus content?

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#44420131)

It's rather early to worry about recycling humans. The US produces 92 billion lbs of meat per year [meatami.com] , which is 294 lbs for every American every year, which means you (on average) will be responsible for the production of over 100 times your body weight in animals throughout your life. And for that matter you excrete far more phosphorous during your life than you contain when you die. Animal agriculture manure is a primary source of nitrogen and phosphorus to surface and groundwater. [epa.gov]

The fact is we have scarcely even started to recycle, or for that matter avoid producing waste in the first place.

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419443)

So what do we do about phosphorous?

Better recycle our own piss [icm.edu.pl] .

Guano (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419475)

That's where we use to get it and the supply is possibly limitless.

We just found it more efficient/cheaper to mine the rock concentrations. If they run out, we go back to the guano.

Re:Great, now what about phosphorous? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419589)

Phosphorus is what matters for runoff, NOT nitrogen. Nitrogen is plentiful in surface water, it is phosphorus that causes algae blooms and dead areas.

Limiting or completely stopping phosphorus runoff is the only answer.

Of course you are correct with potassium. Potassium mines are generally in areas of old, evaporated seas.

PS. This is all old information. Research was done more than a decades ago at ELA,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_Lakes_Area [wikipedia.org]

The end of nitrogen fertilizer? Fewer bombs? (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about a year ago | (#44419247)

If no plant needs nitrogen fertilizer, does this mean that we can stop producing ammonium nitrate and other nitrates in huge quantities, many of which can be used to make explosives?

Does this mean we could realistically reduce the availability of now-common bomb-making materials?

--PeterM

Re: The end of nitrogen fertilizer? Fewer bombs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419481)

no. it doesn't come remotely close, but don't let that stop you from not learning shit about common materials, just jump to another liberal mind bending ideal.
wait till the warm mongers getta hola dis.

Re:The end of nitrogen fertilizer? Fewer bombs? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44419487)

No, that's a silly reason to ban anything, because most anything can be used to make an explosive quite easily and trivially. Look around, your cotton or hemp or silk or synthentic clothing; plastics; wood products; metals like iron, aluminum, copper, zinc, lead, graphite; the various basic chemicals like soap, window wash, drain opener; the acidic things like car battery acid, vinegar, muriatic acid; the "chlorine" powder for your swimming pool; hydrocarbons from paraffin to coal to liquid fuels and hydraulic oils to natural gas; catalysts like the platinum in your car's catalytic converter .......all can be used to make powerful explosives.

it's nonsense, to say we can ban ingredients for explosives. It's even more silly than saying we can ban the ingredients for making booze.

Re:The end of nitrogen fertilizer? Fewer bombs? (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about a year ago | (#44419585)

Yes, but can you buy all of that stuff in really large quantities without making people suspicious? And I doubt any of them are really as simple+effective+safe as your nitrogen-based explosives.

--PM

Re:The end of nitrogen fertilizer? Fewer bombs? (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#44419869)

what makes you think anything needs to be bought? you missed the point totally. reagents can't be banned because they're everywhere in abundant supply. for example, you mentioned the nitrogen-based explosives. The road to those can start with a barrel of piss

three BILLION pounds (4, Informative)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#44420061)

Currently about three billion pounds of KNO3 are made each year. Suppose the researcher's hopes come true and that is cut in half. That would mean only 1,500,000,000 pounds would be on the market each year. Of course, it's not just used for fertilizer, there are many other uses. But if you did replace all those other uses, there would only be enough KNO3 to make ten million bombs per year. Of course, horse stables are full of it, too - stale urine is potassium nitrate.

You know why you can't take liquids on airplanes? Hydrogen peroxide and nail polish remover. If you mix the two correctly, you get a VERY powerful explosive . (If you mix them incorrectly you get dead. Don't try it. It's a great explosive for SUICIDE bombers.)

Another frequently used and powerful explosive is aluminium powder. Yep, ground up tinfoil. Don't try that at home either, it might blow up while you're grinding it. Adding Parlon can help. Parlon is also known as Saran Wrap.

Grind up ping pong balls, that modern gunpowder, called smokeless powder.

So you see, to make any progress by banning stuff you would need to ban half the stuff in the grocery store. Oh, and don't forget to ban livestock, so everyone would have to be vegetarian. ( remember, where animals piss, potassium nitrate crystallizes.)

Now all we need is a bazillion immigrant labourers (2)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44419327)

Now all we need is a bazillion immigrant labourers to run around the fields with syringes injecting plants.

Let me know if they ever figure out how to apply this bacteria to seed before planting or spraying after sprouting. Then they'll have something worth talking about.

Re:Now all we need is a bazillion immigrant labour (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#44419371)

Insects.

Specifically, you release sap sucking insects that like to stuff their sharp little noses deep into the tissues of green plants already, such as aphids.

Cross the nitrogen fixating bacteria with wolbachia parasite, so that it can live in both hosts, and watch the plants take over.

Re:Now all we need is a bazillion immigrant labour (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about a year ago | (#44419447)

For those too lazy:

Wolbachia is a genus of parasitical/symbiotic micro-organisms that infect arthropods, including most insects [wikipedia.org]

Many species of insect that have intimate contact with plants and plant juices harbor this parasite. including aphids [asm.org]

Now, asking if that is "a good idea" or not? That's an entirely different question!

Re:Now all we need is a bazillion immigrant labour (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419423)

The process that Cocking developed, based on his discovery, is known as N-Fix. It involves covering seeds in a non-toxic coating that contains the bacterium.

Re:Now all we need is a bazillion immigrant labour (5, Informative)

Jayfar (630313) | about a year ago | (#44419441)

Let me know if they ever figure out how to apply this bacteria to seed before planting or spraying after sprouting. Then they'll have something worth talking about.

Er, that's exactly what is disussed in TFA:

"The process that Cocking developed, based on his discovery, is known as N-Fix. It involves covering seeds in a non-toxic coating that contains the bacterium. As a seed sprouts and the plant grows, the bacterium enters through its roots, and ultimately ends up in every cell of the plant. This means that every one of those cells is capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere – just like sugarcane does."

Re:Now all we need is a bazillion immigrant labour (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419493)

You wouldn't want to stab every single wheat stalk in a field, but for anything like, say, orchards, with lasting plants, one injection could provide a hundred years worth of productivity.

Could be a revolution, could be a fizzle (4, Interesting)

Guppy (12314) | about a year ago | (#44419335)

If the claims are true (60% of a plant's nitrogen requirements, adaptable to most crops), this is absolutely huge. All the research on how legumes manage their symbiotic organisms seemed to point to a long, hard slog in adapting nitrogen fixation to other crops, and now here it is from a naturally occurring organism.

But before I break out the champagne, I'm going to ask whereisthefuckingpaper?

Re:Could be a revolution, could be a fizzle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419555)

[...] I'm going to ask whereisthefuckingpaper?

Behind some kind of paywall if even released, of course. Be happy being able to watch their news video nitrogen_bacteria.mp4 [nottingham.ac.uk]

Potential Dangerous Footing? (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year ago | (#44419473)

If the ground gets all full of nitrogen, won't we just sink into it?

Re:Potential Dangerous Footing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419593)

No, soil is full of denitrifying bacteria that conver amonia, nitrate, and nitrate back into a diatomomic gas.

Re:Potential Dangerous Footing? (1)

artfulshrapnel (1893096) | about a year ago | (#44419831)

What? Is this a troll comment?

Okay, key point: the form of Nitrogen that we're talking about generating here is not the gaseous sort. It's "fixed" nitrogen which I believe is mostly in the form of ammonia. Urea, commonly found in various animal feces, is also a convenient source widely used by the agricultural industry. It is also generated by bacteria but under different circumstances. (In your butt and/or intestines depending on how childish you want to be...)

Nitrogen is also the most abundant component of air, so even if we were talking about the gaseous sort we wouldn't need to worry: worms, ants and other tunneling insects already infiltrate the ground with (~70%) gaseous nitrogen already. If you've ever visited a relatively lush un-farmed field when it was damp and noticed how much the ground sinks under your feet? That's your weight squishing the air (which is mostly nitrogen) out of the ground. It isn't a threat at all in that sense.

All these so called advances. (0)

Ralph Ostrander (2846785) | about a year ago | (#44419501)

Somehow make my food prices go up and up. Pressure canning is back for a reason. And I think it is theft.

Re:All these so called advances. (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | about a year ago | (#44419533)

Scientific advances don't make your food prices go up. Massive greed makes your food prices go up.

Re:All these so called advances. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419603)

Because oil prices have exploded, oil being required to produce crops in mass. In addition 10-15% of land being repouposed to fuel crops doesn't help any.

Which planets, exactly? (3, Funny)

simonbp (412489) | about a year ago | (#44419557)

There are only four known objects with nitrogen atmospheres: Earth (already terraformed by microbes), Titan (surface temperature -220 C), Triton and Pluto (surface pressure ~10 microbars). The only two terraforming targets are Mars and (at a stretch) Venus, both of which have almost zero nitrogen in their atmospheres.

This is either a critical research failure, or hyping up a somewhat boring discovery to a more exciting one, or both.

Re:Which planets, exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419605)

Plants, not planets. Plants.

Re:Which planets, exactly? (1)

black3d (1648913) | about a year ago | (#44419637)

While I too read "planets" at first glance after the context of "colonize", this is about plants, not planets.

Re:Which planets, exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419657)

There are only four known objects with nitrogen atmospheres: Earth (already terraformed by microbes), Titan (surface temperature -220 C), Triton and Pluto (surface pressure ~10 microbars). The only two terraforming targets are Mars and (at a stretch) Venus, both of which have almost zero nitrogen in their atmospheres.

This is either a critical research failure, or hyping up a somewhat boring discovery to a more exciting one, or both.

Lol

Re:Which planets, exactly? (1)

Ferrofluid (2979761) | about a year ago | (#44419783)

So you really went to all the trouble of typing that comment, which presumably included some quick fact-checking to get your numbers right, and you didn't bother to re-read the title? I mean, I know it's SOP by now to not read the article, and I guess reading the summary is getting passe these days. But you didn't even read the title?

I guess from now on, we should just stop after reading the first three letters of the title, and base our comments off that. Or better yet, we should just skip the title and base our discussion on the submission's category icon.

Re:Which planets, exactly? (1)

Amouth (879122) | about a year ago | (#44420085)

Or better yet, we should just skip the title and base our discussion on the submission's category icon.

That might make moderating/meta-moderating a bit easier, at least we would have less variance in the results.

Re:Which planets, exactly? (1)

Amouth (879122) | about a year ago | (#44420095)

According to my sig, you'd get a gold metal. :)

Just what we need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419577)

A common biological thread between every food supply on the planet.

What's the worst that can happen?

mod do3n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419601)

with The n0mber

Article subtley misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419635)

It's (very) probably the journalist's fault, but the summary and the article have taken the sentence below completely out of context.

Unfortunately, most commercial crops need the fertilizer, because it provides the nitrogen that they require to survive

Now, it's quite true that plants (in general) require nitrogen to survive, grow well and reproduce. But, the crops don't need fertiliser to provide nitrogen. If that were true then plants would not have existed before fertiliser was "invented". No, the main reason that fertiliser is required is that the soils have been depleted of nitrogen through bad land management practices -- over-cropping, erosion, not rotating crops, exposure of the soil to high temperature/light, the death of soil fungi, microflora, bacteria, etc, etc, etc. I.e. The methods of (most methods and implementation of) modern agrigulture on a large scale destroys natural processes or organisms that help take nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil and/or processes that make nitrogen in the soil available for uptake and use by the crop/plants.

With different land management methods it is entirely possible for commercial crops to not need (artificial) fertiliser.

To me this seems like a band-aid that could -- potentially -- encourage even worse farming/agricultural methods. It might encourage the destruction of more rainforest (in rainforests most of the nutrients are held within the plants, trees, shrubs, lianas, etc themselves rather than in the soil, so land that was previously inhabited by rainforest generally has poor soil nutrient levels); if a quick-fix coat-your-seed-with-magic solution exists that will allow crops to flourish in otherwise unsuitable soils then won't someone get the notion that "hey we couldn't grow shit here in the past, but now we can! Money! Stuff the rainforests, let's get rid of it and plant tobacco. The conditions that stopped us in the past (i.e. poor yield) no longer apply. We're rich!" and... ?

All nitrogen comes from the atmosphere (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419641)

All nitrogen in soil (well, just about all) and then into plants comes from the atmosphere anyway!

There is no such thing as a free lunch. (1)

InterGuru (50986) | about a year ago | (#44419643)

The bacteria gets its energy from sugar in the plant. How much sugar? How much does it decrease the plant's yield.

The Celery Stalks at Midnight (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year ago | (#44419717)

Just what we need zombie plants controlled by symbiotic bacteria like in I Am Legend.

Sounds very bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44419777)

We are going to use this bacteria on all or most of our crops. So this bacteria will be wide spread in the enviorment. The bacteria can grow in most plants so it is likely to spread to other plants. Natural plant communities have evolved with some plants using nitrogen and other plants producing nitrogen usable by themselves and the non nitrogen producing plants. Plants that were limited by lack of nitrogen would no longer be limited. A very high degree of disruption of natural communities seems likely. This doesn't seem to occur in sugar cane producing areas so maybe it's OK. But please test this carefully before it is introduced widely.

Does the bacteria know... (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about a year ago | (#44419841)

...that we have an interest in the plant?

This is potentially huge (3, Interesting)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | about a year ago | (#44420007)

Ammonia is the second only to petrochemical production and 83% goes to fertilizer. If the bacteria can replace most requirements for nitrogen fertilizer this will drastically reduce reliance on energy for agriculture, especially the reducing natural gas that is converted to hydrogen to make Ammonia

Invasive species (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about a year ago | (#44420025)

Okay, I'll be the first to ask:

How is the dispersion of these bacteria controlled? Will the bacteria spread to other plants, such as weeds? Will they be spread by air-borne reproductive means? (Not that food crops use dandelions tufts, but you know what I mean - pollen or seeds blown around by the wind.)

Will these be the 3-d equivalent of Bolivian Tree Lizards [youtube.com] ?

I'm all for scientific progress and not a big fan of Jeremy Rifkin [wikipedia.org] , but he serves an important purpose by voicing concerns and making people stop to consider some of the larger ramifications.

Let's not stop the research, but I really think we should do some environmental impact studies.

I swear I read it as "planet" and not "plant" (1)

lgordon (103004) | about a year ago | (#44420105)

So when do we start terraforming?

Breathe in the aaair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44420167)

if they were to use this on a massive scale could that significantly change the composition of the air we breath, causing potential health problems / demise of life on earth? im not a biochemist but I do know we evolved with certain amount of N present in the atmosphere...i hope they know what theyre doing

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