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More than just a hill of beans: Phaseolus genome lends insights into nitrogen fixation
Date:6/8/2014

"It doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people doesn't add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world," Humphrey Bogart famously said in the movie Casablanca. For the farmers and breeders around the world growing the common bean, however, ensuring that there is an abundant supply of this legume is crucial, both for its importance in cropping systems to ensure plant vitality and for food security. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science has targeted research into the common bean because of its importance in enhancing nitrogen use efficiency for sustainability of bioenergy crops, and for increasing plant resilience and productivity with fewer inputs, on marginal lands, and in the face of the changing climate and environment.

All plants require nitrogen to thrive, and nitrogen fixation is the process by which atmospheric nitrogen is converted into ammonia. However, many agricultural lands are deficient in nitrogen, leading farmers to rely on fertilizers to supply the needed nutrient for their crops. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the United States imports more than half of the nitrogen used as fertilizer, a total of nearly 11 million tons in 2012. Kidney beans, navy beans, string beans and pinto beans are all varieties of the common bean, which ranks as the 10th most cultivated food crop worldwide. Legumes such as the common bean and soybean, however, can form symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Understanding how such symbiotic relationships are formed and sustained is a crucial to improving agricultural practices as increasing crop yields are desired both for fuel and food production.

To this end, a team of researchers led by Scott Jackson of the University of Georgia, Dan Rokhsar of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, Jeremy Schmutz of the DOE JGI and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and Phil McClean of North Dakota State University seque
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Contact: David Gilbert
degilbert@lbl.gov
925-321-1107
DOE/Joint Genome Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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