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Issued Wednesday 12 November 2014

New insights into how plants regulate their absorption of an essential nutrient could help avoid pollution caused by excess use of fertiliser.

The finings could lead to the development of crop varieties that need less of the primary nutrient – nitrogen – than conventional crops. It could also inform how much nitrogen should be added to plant feed.

This would allow optimum plant growth without producing excess nitrogen in run-off from fields, which is a major source of water pollution.

Agricultural fertilisers typically contain high levels of nitrogen that boost plant growth and yield even on poor soils. This helps plants avoid the typical characteristics of nitrogen deficiency – stunted growth and pale or yellow leaves.

The study, by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Campinas in Brazil, examined...

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