Plant and Soil

, Volume 174, Issue 1–2, pp 255–277 | Cite as

Future benefits from biological nitrogen fixation: An ecological approach to agriculture

  • K. E. Giller
  • G. Cadisch


Strategies for the enhancement and exploitation of biological nitrogen fixation are assessed with attention to the likely timescales for realization of benefits in agriculture. Benefits arising from breeding of legumes for N2-fixation and rhizobial strain selection have less potential to increase inputs of fixed N than alleviation of environmental stresses or changes in farming systems to include more legumes. Genetic engineering may result in substantial enhancement of N2-fixation, particularly if the ability to fix N2 is transferred to other crops but these are long-term goals. Immediate dramatic enhancements in inputs from N2-fixation are possible simply by implementation of existing technical knowledge. Apart from the unfortunate political and economic barriers to the use of agricultural inputs, better communication between researchers and farmers is required to ensure proper focus of research and development of appropriate technologies. Legumes must be considered within the context of the farming systems within which they are grown and not in isolation. Proper integration of legumes requires a good understanding of the role of the legume within the system and a better understanding of the relative contributions of N sources and of the fates of fixed N.

Key words

agricultural development agroecology agroforestry farming systems fertilizers green manures legumes soil degradation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. E. Giller
    • 1
  • G. Cadisch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, Wye CollegeUniversity of LondonAshfordUK

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