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Can biological nitrification inhibition (BNI) genes from perennial Leymus racemosus (Triticeae) combat nitrification in wheat farming?

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  • Genetics And Genomics
  • Wheat
  • Biology


Using a recombinant luminescent Nitrosomonas europaea assay to quantify biological nitrification inhibition (BNI), we found that a wild relative of wheat (Leymus racemosus (Lam.) Tzvelev) had a high BNI capacity and releases about 20 times more BNI compounds (about 30 ATU g−1 root dry weight 24 h−1) than Triticum aestivum L. (cultivated wheat). The root exudate from cultivated wheat has no inhibitory effect on nitrification when applied to soil; however, the root exudate from L. racemous suppressed formation and kept more than 90% of the soil’s inorganic-N in the -form for 60 days. The high-BNI capacity of L. racemosus is mostly associated with chromosome Lr#n. Two other chromosomes Lr#J, and Lr#I also have an influence on BNI production. Tolerance of L. racemosus to is controlled by chromosome 7Lr#1-1. Sustained release of BNI compounds occurred only in the presence of in the root environment. Given the level of BNI production expressed in DALr#n and assuming normal plant growth, we estimated that nearly 87,500,000 ATU of BNI activity ha−1 day−1 could be released in a field of vigorously growing wheat; this amounts to the equivalent of the inhibitory effect from the application of 52.5 g of the synthetic nitrification inhibitor nitrapyrin (one AT unit of BNI activity is equivalent to 0.6 μg of nitrapyrin). At this rate of BNI production it would take only 19 days for a BNI-enabled wheat crop to produce the inhibitory power of a standard commercial application of nitrapyrin, 1 kg ha−1. The synthetic nitrification inhibitor, dicyandiamide, blocked specifically the AMO (ammonia monooxygenase) pathway, while the BNI from L. racemosus blocked the HAO (hydroxylamine oxidoreductase) pathway in Nitrosomonas. Here we report the first finding of high production of BNI in a wild relative of any cereal and its successful introduction and expression in cultivated wheat. These results demonstrate the potential for empowering the new generation of wheat cultivars with high-BNI capacity to control nitrification in wheat-production systems.

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