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March 28, 2015

alsdkfjlasdkjflkj alkdsjfasoi asodf jaosij t's pretty well known that soil inoculants can improve plant growth, resistance to pests and disease, nutritional content, and resistance to drought, but some recent papers I've read add yet another dimension to the list, and one that's rather surprising.

Certain bacteria, namely Azospirillum, Paenibacillus Polymyxa, Klebsiella Pneumoniae, Azotobacter, and a certain species of Pseudomonas (amongst others) can all fix nitrogen in association with non-leguminous plant roots. Of those, Azospirillum and Azotobacter can do so in the presence of oxygen (which usually inhibits the nitrogen fixing enzymes), whereas the others do so by eating up all the oxygen in their immediate surroundings.

How much nitrogen can they fix? Well, according to this review (p14) typically 20-50% of plants' total nitrogen needs. This is similar to the amount of nitrogen which legumes can fix (30-70% of their requirements). Total fixation depends on the number and quality of nitrogen fixing bacteria used, and what other companion bacteria they may be combined with, as well as the effectiveness in delivering the inoculant to the plant roots at the time of sprouting. These other N fixing bacteria show little host specificity, also, and have been shown effective for a wide range of plants including grains (and corn), tomatoes, and even trees. They can also improve growth and N fixation in legumes.

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