How can we reduce nitrogen-fertilizer-dependency in agriculture without compromising overall plant fitness?
The root system of a plant performs vital functions including resource uptake when nutrient availability in soil is non-homogenous; while also providing a surface for interactions with beneficial microbes. Legume roots tolerate deficiency of the macronutrient Nitrogen by not only enhancing its direct uptake but also by establishing a unique symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria called rhizobia.
I study the genome-encoded small secreted peptides or ‘peptide hormones’ which appear to lie at the center-stage of N-acquisition in legumes. My research so far suggests that these peptides likely provide a cheap, environmentally-friendly, non-GMO route to address current challenges of plant growth in nutrient-deprived soils.