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Salt-Tolerant Bacteria Improve Crop Yields

Uzbek microbiologist Dilfuza Egamberdieva hopes to apply her new agricultural technique soon in Uzbekistan to boost the yield of economically important crops such as wheat, cotton, tomato and cucumber. She presented her work at this year's TWAS General Meeting.

Egamberdieva, group leader at the National University of Uzbekistan, at Tashkent, has isolated salt-tolerant bacterial strains that live in salt-degraded soils, where they help the rooting process in plants. After the selection of potentially root-colonizing bacteria, she has tested them in experimental settings on plants' roots, obtaining 10-15% yields increase.

More than 2.6 billion people in the world rely on agriculture, but around 52% of the land used for this scope shows soil degradation. Land impoverishment is often due to salt infiltrations in the ground, which weaken the plants and lower the yield. Salt inhibits "nodulation," the development of tiny nodules on plants' roots, where nitrogen fixation occurs. Nitrogen is a critical element limiting plant growth, and specific bacteria convert the atmospheric nitrogen absorbed by plants into a more usable form (ammonia).

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