Belgian researchers strongly promote sustainable agriculture.

Credit: Journal of Environmental Management (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.118996

Much has been written about European climate law and the European Nitrates Directive. In addition to social concerns, drastic reductions in greenhouse gases by 2030 and structural reductions in nitrogen use in agriculture are key challenges. Researchers at the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology now present concrete research results for reducing nitrogen use by targeting microorganisms in the soil.

Their findings have been published in journals. Frontiers in Plant Science, Trends in Microbiology And Journal of Environmental Management.

Nitrogen and the soil microbiome

Plants are needed. I to grow. However, these plants compete with certain bacteria and archaea, two types of microorganisms that are also capable of using nitrogen in the soil. These microorganisms convert nitrogen—in the form of ammonia—into nitrates and nitrites through a process called nitrification.

These nitrates and nitrites leach into soil, groundwater, and recreational water, rendering them unusable. and negatively affects biodiversity and water quality. Additionally, nitrates can be converted into the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, or laughing gas. Farmers often over-fertilize to ensure their crops have enough nitrogen, which has negative impacts on biodiversity and the environment.

Inhibition of nitrification

Finding substances that prevent nitrification by microorganisms (called nitrification inhibitors) is the key to more efficient use of nitrogen in agriculture. When these microscopic soil organisms use less nitrogen, more is available to plants, reducing the need for fertilization. Previous research has focused heavily on soil bacteria, neglecting archaea. Researchers at the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology have now shed light on these mysteries. completing the picture.

“The importance of these archaea for nitrogen consumption in soil has long been overlooked. Current commercial inhibitors against bacteria are not only limited, but they are also ineffective against archaea. To increase efficiency, we looked for nitrification inhibitors against archaea.” says Dr. Fabian Beckmann, postdoctoral researcher at the Beckmann Lab (VIB-UGent).

The research group developed two test methods to identify nitrification inhibitors in archaea and screened approximately 50,000 molecules for their functional use.

“Not only have we described nitrification inhibitors for archaea, but we have also shown that a combination of inhibitors against bacteria and archaea gives the best results,” says project coordinator Dr. Hans Motte. “This result is very promising. We now have the tools to find and combine the best inhibitors, which truly reduce nitrogen use in agriculture.”

A sustainable future

Efficient nitrogen management is an objective covered by the European Climate Law and the European Nitrates Directive. In this context, researchers take a step towards sustainability.

“Currently, all nitrification inhibitors are synthetic molecules,” says Professor Tom Beckman, group leader in the Beckman lab. “With our new test methods, we can now look for natural molecules that can also act as nitrification inhibitors. In the next step, we can also look at plants that themselves produce these products in the soil. do and exclude. Efficient Organic Farming and Sustainable Agricultural Systems.”

More information:
Fabian Beeckman et al, High-Throughput Assays for the Identification of Nitrification Inhibitors Targeting Archaea, Frontiers in Plant Science (2024). DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2023.1283047

Fabian Beeckman et al, Enhancing Agroecosystem Nitrogen Management: Microbial Insights for Better Nitrification Prevention, Trends in Microbiology (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.tim.2023.10.009

Fabian Beeckman et al, Drug discovery-based approach identifies new nitrification inhibitors, Journal of Environmental Management (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.118996

Provided by
Ghent University

Reference: Belgian researchers give strong boost to sustainable agriculture (2024, February 16) Retrieved February 17, 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-02-belgian-strong-boost-sustainable-agriculture.html

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