Over-fertilization of agricultural fields is a huge environmental problem.
Over-fertilization of agricultural fields is a huge environmental problem. Excess phosphorus from fertilized cropland frequently finds its way into nearby rivers and lakes. A resulting boom of aquatic plant growth can cause oxygen levels in the water to plunge, leading to fish die-offs and other harmful effects.
Researchers from Boyce Thompson Institute have uncovered the function of a pair of plant genes that could help farmers improve phosphate capture, potentially reducing the environmental harm associated with fertilization.
The work was published in Nature Plants on September 2.
The discovery stems from Maria Harrison’s focus on plants’ symbiotic relationships with arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Harrison is the William H. Crocker Professor at BTI and an adjunct professor in Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science.
AM fungi colonize plant roots, creating an interface where the plant trades fatty acids for phosphate and nitrogen. The fungi also can help plants recover from stressful conditions, such as periods of drought.
Read more at Boyce Thompson Institute
Image: BTI researchers used Brachypodium distachyon (left) and Medicago truncatula (right) to discover the roles of two genes in root colonization by symbiotic fungi.