New insights into how plants regulate their absorption of an essential nutrient could help avoid pollution caused by excess use of fertilizer, experts say. The findings could lead to the development of crop varieties that need less of the primary nutrient — nitrogen — than conventional crops. It could also inform how much nitrogen should be added to plant feed.
They found that when nitrogen is absorbed, plant cells produce nitric oxide, which acts as a signalling molecule. This nitric oxide fine-tunes how much nitrogen is used for growth, by signalling to the plant’s cells when to limit its uptake.
The scientists say that because nitric oxide plays important roles in shaping the development of plants, and how plants respond to environmental stress, these insights highlight key considerations of how nitrogen-based fertilisers should be used in agriculture.