In DepthMicrobiology

Leaf bacteria fertilize trees, researchers claim

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Science  22 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6237, pp. 844-845
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6237.844

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Summary

One of the fastest growing trees, poplars, may rely on tiny microbes in their leaves to fuel their growth. For more than a decade, a lone researcher has been building a case for nitrogen fixation by bacteria living in poplar leaves. There have been many claims of nitrogen fixation in plants outside nodules where it was known to occur for more than a century. Newly reported experiments involving rice grown on nitrogen-poor soil and poplar cuttings put in air with heavy nitrogen should help convince the skeptics. In addition, another researcher finds evidence of nitrogen fixation in the needles of limber pine and Englemann spruce. If these bacteria prove to be widespread, they could be used to boost crop production on marginal soils.

  • * in Yosemite National Park, California