Nitrogen: Recent Developments in Related Microbial Processes

  • Ja. Van Veen
Conference paper


Nitrogen is a key nutrient for the production of crops on earth. More than any other, it is the growth-limiting nutrient for plant and therefore, it has been added to arable land as fertiliser in enormous quantities, all over the world. Due to its (bio)chemical “flexibility” and its mobility, nitrogen is easily lost to the environment, where it has become a major polluting element in the atmosphere, water and soil. Thus, sound management of the nitrogen resources is a prerequisite for sustainable agriculture and for a clean environment. This calls for understanding of the fate of nitrogen in plant/soil systems. Here, three examples of recent developments in research on nitrogen will briefly be discussed, with emphasis on microbiological processes. These cases are the modelling of nitrogen flow through the soil food web, the use of molecular biological techniques for the identification of ammonium-oxidising bacteria and the mechanisms of host recognition by symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria. They also exemplify progress that has been made in the science on terrestrial ecosystems during the period of the present OECD programme on Biological Resource Management, progress that is needed to develop future strategies for proper management of the biological nitrogen resources.


Nitrogen Fixation Atmospheric Nitrogen Nitrify Bacterium Molecular Biological Technique Nitrogen Resource 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Belser LW (1979) Population ecology of nitrifying bacteria. Annu Rev Microbiol 33: 309–333PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cole V, Cerri C, Minami K, Mosier A, Rosenberg N (1996) Agricultural options for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. In: Watson RT, Zinyowera MC, Moss RH, Dokken DJ (eds) Climate change 1995. Impacts, adaptations, and mitigation of climate change: scientific-technical analysis. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, pp 745–771Google Scholar
  3. Dénarié J, Debellé F, Rosenberg C (1992) Signalling and host range variation in nodulation. Annu Rev Microbiol 46: 497–531PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. De Ruiter PC, Moore JC, Bloem J, Zwart KB, Bouwman LA, Hassink J, De Vos JA, Marinissen JCY, Didden WAM, Lebbink G, Brussaard L (1993) Simulation of nitrogen dynamics in the belowground food webs of two winter-wheat fields. J Appl Ecol 30: 95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. De Ruiter PC, Neutel AM, Moore JC (1995) Energetics, patterns of interaction strengths, and stability in real ecosystems. Science 269: 1257–1260PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Frissel MJ, van Veen JA (1981) Simulation of nitrogen behavior in soil-plant systems. Pudoc, Wageningen, 277 ppGoogle Scholar
  7. Kirkham D, Bartholomew WV (1955) Equations for following nutrient transfor- mations in soil, utilizing tracer data: II. Soil Sci Soc Am Proc 19: 189–192Google Scholar
  8. Kowalchuk GA, Bodelier PLE, Heilig GHJ, Stephen JR, Laanbroek HJ (1998) Community analysis of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, in relation to oxygen availability in soils and root-oxygenated sediments, using PCR, DGGE and oligonucleotide probe hybridisation. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 27: 339–350Google Scholar
  9. Moore JC, de Ruiter PC, Hunt HW (1993) Soil invertebrate/microinvertebrate interactions: disproportionate effects of species on food web structure and function. Vet Parasit 48: 247–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Oenema O, Velthof GL, Yamulki S, Jarvis SC (1997) Nitrous oxide emissions from grazed grassland. Soil Use Manage 13: 288–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Peoples MB, Craswell ET (1992) Biological nitrogen fixation: investments, expectations, and actual contributions to agriculture. Plant Soil 141: 13–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Smith KA, McTaggart IP, Tsuruta H (1997) Emissions of N2O and NO associated with nitrogen fertilisation in intensive agriculture, and the potential for mitigation. Soil Use Manage 13: 296–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Spaink HP (1995) The molecular basis of infection and nodulation by Rhizobia: the ins and outs of sympathogenesis. Annu Rev Phytopathol 33: 345–368PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Vance CP (1996) Root-bacteria interactions: symbiotic nitrogen fixation. In: Waisel Y et al. (eds) Plant roots; the hidden half. Marcel Dekker, New York, pp 723–755Google Scholar
  15. Van Elsas JD, Trevors JT, Wellington EMH (1997) Modern soil microbiology. Marcel Dekker,New York, 683 ppGoogle Scholar
  16. Van Veen JA, Frissel MJ (1981) Simulation model of the behavior of nitrogen in soil. In: Frissel MJ, van Veen JA (eds) Simulation of nitrogen behavior in soil-plant systems. Pudoc, Wageningen, pp 126–144Google Scholar
  17. Verberne EJL, Hassink J, de Willigen P, Groot JJR, van Veen JA (1990) Modelling organic matter dynamics in different soils. Neth J Agric Sci. 38: 221–238Google Scholar
  18. Vitousek PM (1994) Beyond the global warming: ecology and global change. Ecology 75: 1861–1876CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ja. Van Veen
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Terrestrial EcologyNetherlands Institute of EcologyHeterenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations