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New grant for legume-microbe study

May 10, 2012 — Janine Sherrier, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware, is part of a team that has been awarded $6.8 million from the National Science Foundation to study the legume Medicago truncatula.

Sherrier leads one of four research groups participating in this project, which represents a collaborative effort between researchers at the Noble Foundation, the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University, the University of Delaware, and the University of North Texas.

M. truncatula has been selected as a research model to study the symbiotic relationships that are characteristic of legumes. Unlike many species of plants, legumes rely on interactions with rhizobia (naturally-occurring beneficial microbes) to supply them with nitrogen. Many crop plants are supplemented with industrially produced nitrogen fertilizer, and the synthesis of the fertilizer is an energy-intensive process.

“As much as four percent of the world’s natural gas is consumed in the production of nitrogen fertilizers, releasing carbon dioxide by-products into the atmosphere,” said Sherrier.

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