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North Africa: Desert Bacteria Could Help Boost Crop Yields

Desert soil microbes could help halt desertification and boost agriculture in arid regions of the Middle East and North Africa, according to a study.

Scientists from the United Arab Emirates [UAE] have isolated local salt- and drought-tolerant strains of Rhizobia, soil bacteria that fix nitrogen when they become established inside the root nodules of legumes.

Rhizobia bacteria establish a mutually beneficial relationship with their host plant in which they exchange nitrogen they fix for nutrients plants produce through photosynthesis, and could be integral to improving the quality and nitrogen content of soil.

The discoveries could pave the way to improving the production of leguminous plants cultivated in arid environments, says the study published in the February issue of the Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture.

The study was carried out by scientists from the Dubai-based International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in collaboration with the Dubai branch of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science.

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