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Earth Biotech Science

Scientific Breakthrough Increases Plant Yields By One Third (wsu.edu) 197

Slashdot reader schwit1 writes, "Plant scientists have found a way to encourage plants to better use atmospheric nitrogen, thus increasing yields by more than one third. The technique not only produces healthier plants and more seeds, it reduces the need for fertilizer, the overuse of which can be an environmental issue." From WSU News: For years, scientists have tried to increase the rate of nitrogen [conversion] in legumes by altering...interactions that take place between the bacterioid and the root nodule cells. [Washington State University biologist Mechthild] Tegeder took a different approach: She increased the number of proteins that help move nitrogen from the rhizobia bacteria to the plant's leaves, seed-producing organs and other areas where it is needed. The additional transport proteins sped up the overall export of nitrogen from the root nodules.

This initiated a feedback loop that caused the rhizobia to start fixing more atmospheric nitrogen, which the plant then used to produce more seeds. "They are bigger, grow faster and generally look better than natural soybean plants," Tegeder said.

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Scientific Breakthrough Increases Plant Yields By One Third

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  • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Saturday October 15, 2016 @10:48AM (#53081351) Homepage

    This is all a sinister plot by big agriculture to poison us all with nitrogen, amirite? They're just looking for ways to stuff more nitrogen and other fillers into our food supply!

  • GMO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday October 15, 2016 @10:51AM (#53081363) Journal
    Wait until anti-science folks realize this is GMO.
    • Re:GMO (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 15, 2016 @11:14AM (#53081443)

      You don't have to be anti-science to think that we need better regulation on GMOs. In particular the Monopoly (or almost of ) by Monsanto on a lot of the base patents when it comes to GMOs is a bigger issue than almost any other with GMOs.... there is more but I'm tired and don't feel like typing more... so...

      TL;DR: Political issues with GMOs and how they are being controlled/used in society doesn't make you anti-science

      • If you don't like GMOs, shouldn't you be happy that Monsanto patented it all so it becomes less widespread? Which patent number in particular do you think should be 'liberated' from Monsanto?
        • That is a very silly post, phantomfive. Patent numbers are usually not published in newspapers. And ordinary people don't know how to "google" for them.

          But if you give us a list of numbers and the relevant information what it is about, you certainly would get enlightening answers.

      • What is the expiration date on these cited patents? Do no others exist ? Are you anti-patent?

        Or do you resent others accomplishing that of which you are incapable?

        • I for one am anti-patent, or rather anti-intellectual property in general. Protections should go to 7 plus 7 if they need to exist at all.
          • by tsotha ( 720379 )
            I'm with you. At this point the patent system is an impediment to technical progress rather than an aid.
            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              Since the Constitution requires that patents "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" as the current laws do not do that, Copyright and Patent in the US is illegal (unconstitutional). Too bad the government doesn't agree with me.
        • Re:GMO (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Saturday October 15, 2016 @02:16PM (#53082151)

          Monsanto's first generation of GE soybean went off patent a while back and anyone can now use it. Unlike copyright, plant patents do actually expire.

      • Re:GMO (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Saturday October 15, 2016 @02:14PM (#53082145)

        You are right that political issues don't make you anti-science, but the vast, vast majority of complaints about GE crops I see claiming to be 'political issues' are simply nonsense dressed up to justify irrational opposition. I'm not sure which specific patent problem you are referring to though.

        You are also right that we need better regulation. The regulations on GE crops are so strict right now that only one non-corporate GE crop is presently in use right now...the Rainbow papaya, developed by the University of Hawai'i, and even the creator of that one believes that the only reason that one made it is because it was released before the regulations became stricter. Very recently we saw approval of an apple by a smaller company. If you want to avoid excessive corporate control by Monsanto (which by the way isn't actually a monopoly considering that the are several other similar companies out there, like Pioneer, Syngenta, Bayer Crop Science, and Dow AgroSciences) then what we need are regulations that will allow innovations like this to actually come to use instead of being shelved indefinitely, which is the fate of most university developed GE crops.

      • There's a difference between hating GMOs because they're GMOs and hating a company that makes GMO crops. There's nothing wrong with GMO.

      • You don't have to be anti-science to think that we need better regulation on GMOs. In particular the Monopoly (or almost of ) by Monsanto on a lot of the base patents when it comes to GMOs is a bigger issue than almost any other with GMOs...

        Monsoto is a pretty bad company and there are many things wrong with them, but they are not monopoly or a near monopoly, they are not even the biggest player on the market.

        Though if they are allowed to bought by Bayer, they probably will be combined.

      • by Entrope ( 68843 )

        Government restrictions of this thing are a problem, therefore the solution is more government restrictions of this thing!

        I had something for this.

        Oh, right, a brain.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 )

      Wait until anti-science folks realize this is GMO.

      Wait until Trump supporters find out that soybeans make you gay.

      http://www.wnd.com/2006/12/392... [wnd.com]

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        They totally missed the chance for an appropriate cover picture [wordpress.com] for that story.

      • Wait until Trump supporters find out that soybeans make you gay.

        I would have thought that finding out that soybeans give you man boobs would have been enough (and it is actually supported by the available science) but alas, no. People of Wal-Mart, indeed.

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )
        Wait until some asshole injects politics into a story about plants... oh, nevermind.
        • Wait until some asshole injects politics into a story about plants... oh, nevermind.

          Hang in there. It'll all be over in a few weeks. Well, to be honest it was all over back in August, but some dead horses really deserve a good beating.

    • we're gonna do this come hell or high water. It's the only way to feed everybody. With our aging population we're gonna need higher crop yields per unite of labor or we're gonna have mass starvation.
      • GMO has nothing to do with feeding the poor starving masses. Western countries limit food production so we don't suppress food prices and put farmers out of business while third world farmers can't afford to buy seeds so they will never see the benefits. GMO exists only to increase profit margins. Also third world countries already have mass starvation. Food is the only limit on their population, so no matter how much food production increases they will eventually return to mass starvation.
        • Also third world countries already have mass starvation.

          Those are fourth world countries mate, and there aren't many countries like that left.

        • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Saturday October 15, 2016 @02:27PM (#53082175)

          Bollocks, what of all the GE crops like Golden Rice, BioCassava, Bangladeshi Bt Eggplant, and Brazilian golden mosaic virus resistant beans developed exactly for that purpose? These of course are equally opposed by anti-GE activists, probably more so because of how they disprove your claim. Besides that, GE is such a broad term that you might as well say cooking exists solely to make McDonald's money.

          • what of all the GE crops like Golden Rice, BioCassava, Bangladeshi Bt Eggplant, and Brazilian golden mosaic virus resistant beans developed exactly for that purpose?

            As a species we throw away six times as much food as we'd need to feed the hungry every year. The notion that we need new food crops to feed everyone is... notional. If we're not willing to solve the problem through distribution, we need only to abandon these environmentally inefficient monocultural farming practices. Robotics provides the way forward here as in so many other disciplines, where we have gone awry in the name of labor efficiency. Planting guilds with integrated pest management meaning trap cr

        • Except for Somalia and Sudan, 3rd world countries don't exist anymore (since 20 years).
          And the problems in those countries are political and not a farming/water/harvest/food problem.

          However your tag regarding GMO is right.

      • That's a myth. And just like you I don't post a link to prove my point.
    • It's not the GMO that causes cancer (Seralini, Ibe Pedersen), but the roundup that it allows to be used.
      Well, maybe also the GMO, but glyphosate truly does.
      • I don't talk to people about glyphosate unless they also understand half-life. The vast majority of people don't know what they're afraid of, the just read some propaganda uncritically.
  • Now all we have to do is increase the other plant food, CO2 and the world will plenty of food.
  • Rushing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Saturday October 15, 2016 @11:11AM (#53081431) Journal

    Why didn't natural selection already "discover" this? Perhaps there's a big trade-off that hasn't been discovered yet.

    • by N!k0N ( 883435 )
      Seems natural selection went for "carnivorous" (see venus flytrap, sundew, etc).
    • Re:Rushing? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday October 15, 2016 @11:24AM (#53081489) Homepage

      Natural selection optimizes to a plant's natural environment. Intensive modern agriculture is not a plant's natural environment. Everything comes with tradeoffs, and in nature there are a lot of things that come into play beyond just "racing to as many seeds as possible". Perhaps, for example, by producing more nitrogen they'd be fertilizing the soil for their competitors which would outgrow them - maybe they were limiting the nitrogen for a reason.

      Indeed, this actually does seem to happen. Here in Iceland, lupine is not a native species, but it's taken off like crazy since it was introduced (to try to restore our soil), pushing out native species. However, evidence shows that after an area has grown lupine for several decades, it tends to slowly die out, being replaced by native plants that can now - due to the improved soil - outcompete the lupine. Lupine is, of course, a legume.

    • by doug141 ( 863552 ) on Saturday October 15, 2016 @11:55AM (#53081621)

      An economist is walking through the park with his son. "Look, Dad! There's a $20 under that bench!" Dad says, "Don't be absurd... if there was, someone would have picked it up."

    • Simplified, Natural selection is only about competitive advantage to reproduction and escape predator to come to reproduction age. It is not about the *most* efficient ways to get there, but sometimes simply just be a bit better than the other species. As such, it can simply stay stuck at a local minima if there is no selection pressure. In other word, there is not always a trade off. Sometimes it is simply that there is no selection pressure where this could bring something to the plant reproduction.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Higher crop yield and less fertilizer? Maybe the prices will drop, but probably not.

  • More and bigger plants will also mean even faster exhaustion of micro-nutrients from the soil. Since not all the biomass produced in that soil is being recycled into it - the whole point of agriculture is our removal and use of parts of the plants - then the soil will slowly be exhausted of its non-infinite supply of those nutrients. The future results is food crops that contain less of those micro-nutrients, leaving future generations that consume them with a deficit. We've already seen this effect in t

  • ... Seymour!

  • you, insensitive clod!
    • by oic0 ( 1864384 )
      Same here lol. They already put it in EVERYTHING. With this advancment they'll probably just replace all food with it completely and ill be forced to grow my own food.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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