VFRC Report 2014/1: Beneficial Organisms for Nutrient Uptake

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This review about beneficial soil organisms for plant nutrient acquisition reveals the fascinating beauty of soil biology and the amazingly complex interactions among plants, soils, micro-organisms and nutrients. Generally speaking, micro-organisms may help plants to better scavenge several nutrients from the soil and reduce hazards such as drought or toxicity against heavy metals. Some micro-organisms can keep away harmful organisms, improving plant fitness. Some microorganisms are even considered to be biofertilizers. Therefore, maintaining a diverse population of micro-organisms by adequate management (including prevention of overuse of mineral fertilizer) may be beneficial in the long run.

The strong and multiple interactions imply, however, that human interventions targeting the exploitation of specific beneficial aspects would be highly specific regarding plant species, soil, micro-organism and nutrients. The beneficial impact of currently available inoculants seems to vary greatly due to these complex interactions, and various commercially available products may lack rigorous scientific evidence explaining their impact. Yet some generic finding may give leads for interventions for increased nutrient uptake via microorganisms. For instance, with specific nitrogen-fixing bacteria, evidence is overwhelming that interactions between plants and micro-organisms are beneficial for nutrient supply to plants. Furthermore, partial application of nutrients through leaves may help to reduce the negative impact of soil fertilization on symbiosis between plants and beneficial micro-organisms. Hence, understanding the world of soil microbiology and exploiting it to the benefit of more sustainable production remains worth investigating.

Citation: Nina Koele, Thomas W. Kuyper and Prem S. Bindraban, 2014.
Beneficial organisms for nutrient uptake. VFRC Report 2014/1, Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 63 pp.; 4 figs.; 330 ref.


VFRC Report 2014/2: Eliminating Zinc Deficiencies in Rice-Based Systems

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´╗┐Zinc deficiency in crop production and in human populations is a wide-spread and serious problem, especially in rice-based systems. This reports presents an overview of the soil factors controlling plant-available Zn, explains the synergistic or antagonistic behavior among nutrients on their uptake by plants and discusses the mobility of Zn within a plant. This holistic, comprehensive view of the behavior of Zn from the fertilizer through to the plant and human intake provides leads as to how Zn nutrients could be best supplied to rice plants. The report also evaluates biofortification of rice against other strategies to resolve Zn deficiency in human consumers depending on rice as staple food.

Citation: A. Duffner, E. Hoffland, T.J. Stomph, A. Melse-Boonstra and P. S. Bindraban, 2014.
Eliminating Zinc Deficiency in Rice-Based Systems. VFRC Report 2014/2. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 35 pp.; 1 table; 5 figs.; 1 text box; 200 ref.


VFRC Report 2014/3: Se Fertilization: An Agro-Ecosystem Approach

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Selenium (Se) is an essential micro-nutrient with 0.5 to 1 billion people experience major health problem due to deficient intake. This research identifies factors for developing a decision support tool for determining when application of Se fertilizer would be effective. The meta-analysis done in this research reveals that fertilizer strategies are key to increase Se uptake of staple food crops.  Adapting fertilizer strategies to site specific agro-ecosystem properties might increase the uptake efficiency from 10% up to 50%. Most relevant soil properties controlling Se uptake include soil acidity and redox potential. Agronomic practices such as liming, irrigation and basic fertilization (nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur) additionally affect crop Se levels. The chemical form and Se dose are primary drivers of Se uptake whereas foliar applications appears more resource efficient over soil application. Bio-fortifying food items in itself is also an effective avenue for human health improvement but may not reach the neediest.

Citation: G.H. Ros, A.M.D. van Rotterdam, G.D. Doppenberg, D.W. Bussink and P.S. Bindraban, 2014. Se Fertilization: An Agro-Ecosystem Approach. VFRC Report 2014/3. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 62 pp.; 1 table; 21 figs.; 282 ref.


VFRC Report 2014/4: Establishing a Viable Fertilizer Quality Detection System

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Fertilizer adulteration can be a malpractice or unconscious result in the multiple blending steps in the fertilizer chain, ultimately reducing farm livelihood, causing mistrust in the use of fertilizers by farmers and even lead to soil and crop damage and pollution. This research has aimed to develop a quick and cheap method to determine fertilizer nutrient content and trace contamination. Promising results were found with chromatogram imaging, but the method needs further development to be sufficiently accurate, speedy and affordable, revealing the formidable challenge to develop quick and robust methods.

Citation: Perumal, K., Ananthi, S., Arunkumar, J., Sambanda Moorthy, T.A.,  Karthik, B., U. Singh, and P.S. Bindraban, 2013. Establishing a Viable Fertilizer Quality Detection System, VFRC Report 2014/4. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 23 pp.; 9 tables; 3 figs.; 8 ref.


VFRC Report 2014/5: Environmentally Friendly Phosphate Fertilizers

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Phosphate-solubilizing (PS) Gram-negative bacteria such as Pseudomonads have routinely demonstrated the ability to drive the dissolution of agronomically relevant levels of phosphate rock, thereby promoting plant growth in different studies. This makes such microbes candidates for the industrial development of phosphate fertilizers for crop nutrition. Virtually all P fertilizers are still manufactured via sulfuric acid-based wet processes. This report provides a way forward for the development of phosphate fertilizers leveraging the previously mentioned abilities of PS bacteria. The report calls for an industrial-scale biotechnological intervention to process rock phosphate ores into soluble P fertilizer products, with concrete R&D activities and timelines to arrive at a PS bacteria-enabled crop nutrition product. In view of its biological basis, the use of microbes to dissolve rock phosphate is both an economically and environmentally sustainable technology with increased crop performance benefits.

Citation: Goldstein, A., 2014. Strategies for the Development of Environmentally Friendly Phosphate Fertilizers Based on Gram-Negative Phosphate Solubilizing Bacteria. VFRC Report 2014/5. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 51 pp.; 5 tables; 27 figs.; 45 refs.