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Researchers Karnelia Paul of the University of Calcutta (India), Chinmay Saha of the University of Kalyani (India), and Anindita Seal of the University of Calcutta (India) designed research to study nitrogen nutrition in rice. Nitrogen supply limits crop yields, but application of excess nitrogen fertilizer can pollute water and is expensive. Therefore, scientists are looking for beneficial microbes that could assist in providing plants with nitrogen by fixing nitrogen—converting atmospheric nitrogen to forms that plants can use. Such "green fertilizers" could improve grain yields without the need for application of chemical nitrogen fertilizers. Legumes such as soybeans have symbiotic bacteria that fix nitrogen, but most important grain crops, including rice, lack these bacteria.
To address this problem, a study published in The Plant Cell used microbes that were discovered in an unusual and highly nutrient-limited environment, cattails growing in a pool of tailings from a uranium mine. The fungus Rhodotorula mucilaginosa JGTA-S1 (JGTA-S1 refers to the specific strain) was isolated from narrowleaf cattail (Typha angustifolia), and this pink-colored fungus improves growth in its host cattails. In their previous work, the authors sequenced the genome of this fungus and discovered that JGTA-S1 has several genes that support its role as a plant-associated fungus. Surprisingly, in the current study the researchers also discovered that this fungus...
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