ARDMORE — Three scientists trying to understand and improve symbiosis among legumes have received a $6.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
It is the second largest grant in The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation's 67-year history.
The scientists are Michael Udvardi, Rujin Chen and Kiran Mysore.
They are working with co-principal investigators Maria Harrison, of The Boyce Thompson Institute, Rebecca Dickstein, of the University of North Texas and Janine Sherrier, of the University of Delaware.
“All NSF grants are highly competitive,” said Richard Dixon, director of the foundation's plant biology division, in a news release. “Being awarded this grant underscores the quality of research being conducted here at the Noble Foundation and the critical nature of this legume research.”
Legumes such as alfalfa and clover are key to sustainable agriculture “because they develop nitrogen-fixing root nodules that accumulate bacteria that can convert atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia,” according to the release. “In essence, they can create their own source of nitrogen fertilizer.”
The scientists will try to identify the genes that develop nodules and give them nitrogen-fixing capabilities. The goal is to improve symbiosis between the legumes, bacteria and soil fungi — creating an alternative to nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers.