Nitrogen is an element responsible for lush green plant growth, but most plants aren't actually able to use the nitrogen gas in Earth's atmosphere. Non-organic farmers and gardeners use chemical nitrogen fertilizer to keep crops thriving, but this synthetic fertilizer can pose a threat to the environment. It pollutes our waterways threatening our drinking water supply, fish and wildlife. Biological nitrogen fixation through plants helps crops flourish without introducing pollutants to the environment.
A symbiotic relationship between plant and bacteria
Nitrogen-fixing plants are those whose roots are colonized by certain bacteria that extract nitrogen from the air and convert or “fix” it into a form required for their growth. The symbiotic bacteria is called Rhizobia and forms nodules in the root systems, producing nitrogen compounds that help the plant to grow and compete with other plants.
Popular types of nitrogen-fixers for home gardens
The best known and most common plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation are those in the legume family, Fabaceae. There are also non-leguminous nitrogen fixing plants.
Ground cover plants: Vetch, cowpea, lupine flower, soybean, clover, peanut, alfalfa, and Austrian winter pea, fava bean.
Trees and shrubs: Hippophae Rhamnoides, Pidgeon pea, Elaeagnus, Seaberry, Acacia, Robinia pseudoacacia, Siberian pea shrub, Inga Edulis.
(The small, normally whitish-pink nodules are where the magic happens)
This article was a collaboration by Jackson Knights and Miguel Cotton from Orchard of Flavours If you have any questions, suggestions or if you would like professional consultancy for your own project, do not hesitate to contact us.