|Niall Carson - AP|
It's also interesting that the girls have looked a little sideways at the effects of N-fixers on plants. The usual take is to measure the productivity of plants in the presence of diazotrophs because nitrogen-fixing allows more amino-acids to be manufactured; which means that more protein can be made; which means that plants can grow more and/or grow more protein. One interesting sideline is that the enzyme nitrogenase requires minority elements molybdenum or vanadium to function properly, in the same way as haemoglobin requires an iron atom at its active site. Some soils are grossly deficient in either or both of these elements and so have very low productivity. The brute force approach is to lash on more nitrogen fertiliser . . . which will run off into water-courses and The elegant solution is to sprinkle a tiny quantity of molybdenum on the earth and let the diazotrophs do the heavy-lifting. What the Kinsale Three have shown is that another important property - germination - is also enhanced by the action of these bacteria.
I hope they enjoy their ten day trip to the Galapagos and make good use of their $50,000 Google scholarship fund. We need such smart and creative young people in science, who will stay the course and become Women in Science rather than drift off into a life of affluence and foreign travel.