Nitrogen Fixation

Authored by: Jiann-Shin Chen

Handbook on Clostridia

Print publication date:  March  2005
Online publication date:  March  2005

Print ISBN: 9780849316180
eBook ISBN: 9780203489819
Adobe ISBN:


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Nitrogen is an essential element for all life forms. Although nitrogen gas (N2 or dinitrogen) constitutes about 80% of the Earth’s atmosphere, plants and animals and most microbes cannot use N2 as a nitrogen source because of the chemical stability of the N2 molecule. The usable form of nitrogen is “fixed” nitrogen, where nitrogen has been transformed into part of a nitrogenous compound such as ammonia or nitrate. In nature, there are two main routes of transforming or fixing nitrogen. One is by lightning, and it contributes, at most, about 10% of the total annual yield of fixed nitrogen [1]. By far, the most important route of nitrogen fixation is from the activity of certain soil bacteria, which contributes about 65% of the total annual yield of fixed nitrogen, with the balance (25%) coming from industrial production using the Haber-Bosch process.

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