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Utah State University researchers unlock mysteries about nitrogen fixation

Published October 3, 2013 8:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Two papers from a Utah State University researcher offer insights into a process necessary for all life on Earth.

Lance Seefeldt, a professor in USU's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has uncovered the order of the steps that are taken as living things fix nitrogen. The element is prevalent in the atmosphere, but can't be accessed. Humans and other animals get nitrogen from food's protein while plants get it from the soil. It takes an energy-intensive, complex process to consume nitrogen, and Seefeldt and his colleagues have uncovered some of those steps.

Their research was published in papers in the online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Seefeldt says by uncovering the steps, there may be energy-saving implications for the world's food supply as a man-made technique to make fertilizer is energy-intensive and heavily depends of fossil fuels.

"By finally unlocking the conversion process, we can look to Mother Nature for answers," he said.




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