Special Issue "Molecular Signals in Nodulation Control"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (27 March 2016).
Interests: genetics and genomics of systemic control of nodulation in legumes; molecular genetics and molecular physiology of sustainable biofuel production from the legume tree Pongamia
Interests: legumes, legume nodulation and nitrogen fixation; Plant molecular physiology, signalling and development; plant functional genomics (genetics, transcriptomics); plant-microbe interactions (symbioses)
Our world is facing major problems relating to food production. According to an August 30th 2015 program of LANDLINE (ABC Australia), we lose 120,000,000 hectares of agricultural land per year due to population growth, associated urbanization, and desertification. The expected population of >10 billion human inhabitants of this planet by 2050 (only 35 years away!) will require an increase of 46% in staple grain production and about 76% in animal protein output. These goals may be difficult to achieve with predicted climate changes, sociological changes towards higher consumption, political and military unrest.
For these reasons, it is essential that we now focus biological research at increased productivity with increased sustainability. One aspect of plant production is the absolute requirement for nitrogen. It is a key element, next to carbon, in most biological molecules (such as metabolites, protein and even nucleic acids). In the past it was possible to recycle waste to supply this nitrogen need. However large-scale agriculture now relies on supplementation of field sites with industrial fertilisers including those providing nitrogen (such as various nitrate, urea, and ammonium formulation). This practice is NOT sustainable and not economically advantageous, as the increased yield is burdened by (1) the costs of energy-demanding production by the Haber-Bosch process, (2) environmental negatives such as nitrous oxide (a strong Greenhouse gas) release and (3) surface and ground water nitrification, leading to eutrophication (see the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico).
Thus, alternatives are needed. One of these is the natural process of nitrogen fixation as seen agriculturally in many legume crops, such as soybean, chickpea, clovers, medics, peas, peanuts, and even trees, such as acacia, robinia, and the biodiesel feedstock tree pongamia.
This process occurs in root organs called nodules, which are induced by a range of soil bacteria, broadly called “rhizobia”. These organised structures then provide the “prison” for the invading bacterium, so that the correct physiological conditions such as ample plant energy supply and restricted, but stable oxygen concentration are achieved.
Extensive international research on multiple levels of nodulation and nitrogen fixation over the last century have improved agricultural yield and lowered inputs. One only needs to look at the development of soybean in Brazil. Low and inconsistent yields half a century ago are now replaced by a robust and competitive industry.
However, like any biological process, there are genetic and environmental factors that control the outcome. There are legume mutants that fail to nodulate all together; some nodulate but fail to fix. There are acidic or nitrate-rich soils that suppress nodulation and, thus, the symbiotic input.
Research over the last decade has yielded insight into these, using approaches ranging from agronomic field trials to molecular genetic and genomic technologies. This Special Issue is devoted to the recent advances in the field of “Molecular Signals in Nodulation Control”. It is hoped that such advances help to increase the efficiency of the legume symbiosis, with the hope of providing an additional tool to resolve the anticipated problems associated with future food production.
Prof. Dr. Peter M. Gresshoff
Dr. Brett Ferguson
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- molecular control
- ligand modifications
- symbiotic genes