• Question: Why nodulation so important.

    Asked by Aaliyah to Alex on 25 Apr 2016. This question was also asked by Jazmen.
    • Photo: Alexander Taylor

      Alexander Taylor answered on 25 Apr 2016:

      I know, it doesn’t seem like nodulation would be very important – microscopic bacteria living in the roots of plants is about as obscure and out-of-the-way as you can get! But, nodulation actually shapes the world we live in in profound ways.

      Maybe the most important thing about nodulation is what it does for farm fields. The nitrogen fertilizer that the bacteria make during nodulation helps replenish the soil. If you plant corn in the same field year after year, the corn would eventually suck all of the nutrients out of the soil, and you couldn’t grow anything there. In order to keep the soil fertile for the next year, farmers have to plant nodulating plants like soybeans or lentils every other year. So we wouldn’t be able to grow our food without nodulation!

      The other reason that nodulation is so important is that it gives us the protein our bodies need. Even if you eat meat for your protein, those animals were fed soybeans or some other nodulating crop to get their protein. So nodulation is very important for human nutrition too!

      Nodulation is so important that every major civilization that invented agriculture had to domesticate at least one grass species and one nodulating legume species. In Mexico, this was corn and beans; in China, rice and soybeans; in the Middle East, wheat and chickpeas. If they hadn’t grown the nodulating plant, these societies would not have been able to feed themselves!

      This is actually one of the loves I love about nodulation; sometimes, the most obscure, seemingly unimportant thing is really critical to keeping everything else going.