Nitrification is the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite. It’s an important part of the nitrogen cycle and all that, but bad news for agriculture, because up to 70% of applied N fertilizer can be lost to plants this way. There are synthetic nitrification inhibitors out there (e.g. dicyandiamide), but now comes news that a wild relative of wheat is also pretty good at slowing down the process. Researchers have identified the bits of the genome involved in biological nitrification inhibition in Leymus racemosus, and have managed to get them to do their stuff in wheat too.1 Is there nothing crop wild relatives can’t do?
- Subbarao, G. et al. (2007) Can biological nitrification inhibition (BNI) genes from perennial Leymus racemosus (Triticeae) combat nitrification in wheat farming? Plant Soil 299:55-64. [↩]