December 27, 2013
QUEENSLAND, AustraliaA new bacterium found in the roots of sugarcane could reduce the use of fertilizer in sugarcane production and improve yield, according to a new study published in the journal Microbial Biotechnology.
University of Queensland researchers searched for bacteria that were present in large numbers around the roots of thriving sugarcane plants.
Researchers discovered a new bacterium, Burkholderia australis, that promotes plant growth through a process called nitrogen fixation. The bacteria was tested to ensure that they were happy living amongst the roots of growing sugarcane seedlings, and sequencing the genome to confirm that they had the genetic ability to turn nitrogen into plant food.
"While two of the most abundant bacteria did not have noticeable effects on plant growth, Burkholderia australis was doing quite well in competition with other soil bacteria in the environment, and turned out to be particularly good for the plants," said lead researcher Chanyarat Paungfoo-Lonhienne, Ph.D.
Bacteria are widely used in sugar cane production, as well as with other crops, where they help to break down organic matter in the soil to make vital nutrients available to the growing plants or turn nitrogen from the air into nitrogen compounds that are essential for growth (so-called biological nitrogen fixation).
The results can be very variable, which is unsurprising given the complexity of biological processes in and around the plant root. This variability means that the success of bacterial fertilizers might depend on developing tailor-made versions for different crop cultivars and environments.
In addition, bacteria can used to battle foodborne pathogens. The coat of potential poultry probiotic Lactobacillus johnsonii was recently characterized, giving the first clues of how it may be used to exclude pathogenic bacteria from chickens.
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