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Feeding behavior increases nitrogen availability: nematodes

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Soybean cyst nematode and its egg / Agricultural.. / LicensePD - Public Domain

The feeding behavior of nematodes increases nitrogen availability to plants because they prey on nitrogen-hoarding bacteria and excrete excess nitrogen in a form plants can use.

BIOMIMICRY TAXONOMY
Summary
"What good are nematodes? Thanks to microcosm studies [small-scale replicas of ecosystems with only certain types of organisms added to sterilized soil], scientists now know that these tiny grazers may be responsible for 30 percent or more of the nitrogen released to plants, useful work that has traditionally been attributed solely to the labors of bacteria and fungi. Russell Ingham and others then in the lab of David Coleman at Colorado State University found that bacteria thrived in larger numbers when they were placed in a microcosm of grassland soils with their nematode predator. Blue grama grass grew faster, too, and initially took up more nitrogen when the nematodes were at work below. It turns out that bacterial cells contain more nitrogen than nematodes can use, so the feasting nematodes excrete a lot of it as ammonium wastes. Both the surviving bacteria and the plants clearly benefit from this extra nitrogen source. Similar results have been found in other soil types, from those of the forests of Sweden to those nourishing winter wheat fields in The Netherlands. For instance, wheat grown where both bacteria and bacteria-grazing protozoa were active grew significantly better than in soils only bacteria present. Of course, in the real world, the action never involves just two interacting types of soil creatures, but rather a whole web of predators and prey." (Baskin 1997:111-112)
About the inspiring organism
Nemata
Nemata

Learn more at EOL.org
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist


Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Maintaining soil functions. Creating synthetic soils for use in restoring degraded sites, roadcuts, mudslide areas. Creating synthetic soils in areas where topsoil has been lost.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Agriculture

References
Baskin, Y. 1997. The Work of Nature: How The Diversity Of Life Sustains Us. Island Press.
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