They discover how to reduce the need for fertilizers

They discover how plants regulate their growth based on nitrate in the soil, which would reduce the need for fertilizers.

Researchers from CONICET, the Leloir Institute Foundation and the Institute of Physiological and Environmental Research Related to Agriculture (IFEVA) of the Department of Agronomy of the UBA, published an article in the Magazine of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, which reveals the mechanism that regulates plant stem growth under conditions rich in nitrate, which is an essential nutrient source in agricultural soils. This discovery opens the door to the cultivation of more efficient crops at lower economic and environmental costs.

The excessive growth of crops can threaten yield because, if they reach too high a height, they can break or fall due to the action of the wind or make the work of harvesting machines difficult.


In a work published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from CONICET of the Leloir Institute Foundation (FIL) and the Institute of Physiological and Environmental Research in Agriculture (IFEVA) of the UBA discovered the molecular mechanism that It participates in the control of stem growth against different concentrations of nitrate, an essential nutrient in agricultural soils. This discovery opens the door to more efficient crops.

Fertilizer technologies

"During the green revolution, technologies were introduced that significantly increased crop yields.
For example, dwarfing genes have been introduced into crops such as wheat and rice, thus creating dwarf specimens that do not fall over easily. A side effect of this development is that plants use soil nitrogen less efficiently.

Therefore, to achieve the same effect, more fertilizer would have to be used, which implies greater economic costs and environmental", stated the agronomist and doctor in biological sciences Jorge Casal, head of the Department of Environmental Sciences of the FIL Plant Molecular Physiology experiment and one of the heads of the FIL Plant Molecular Physiology Laboratory, and one of the authors of the work .

Using the hypocotyl (early growing stem) of the plant Arabidospis thaliana As a model, Casal and his colleague Matías Ezequiel Pereira, first author of the article, and other collaborators determined how the plant stem responded to the presence of nitrate. “We compared what happened at high and low concentrations and saw no difference in growth. However, when we increased the concentration of available nitrate, hypocotyl growth increased”said Pereira, also a researcher at FIL and IFEVA.

"A home may have an external thermal switch that controls all power; Subsequently, the circuit can be separated and locked for each zone, and later, one branch of the circuit can have device-specific thermocouples that can be cut to connect that device without affecting the power supply to the remaining parts of the circuit in the house. . The dwarf genes used so far are more general", noted the expert. The dwarfism genes that have been used until now are like more general keys," the specialist noted. And he highlighted: "We have identified other genes, called SAUR, that more specifically control growth".

The researchers also discovered that the PIF4 protein plays a central role in the expression of these genes in the face of increased nitrate.

Now, with this new information, scientists hope to create dwarf crops that do not have low nitrogen use efficiency, thus reducing fertilizer use. “We strive to maintain the benefits without the negative side effects”, concludes Casal.

Here the study

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