There is a consensus within the scientific community that nitrogenous fertilizers are almost indispensable in today’s agriculture. However, the geometric increase in nitrogenous fertilizer applications and the associated environmental concerns call for focus on more sustainable alternatives. Biological dinitrogen (N2) fixation (BNF) is one of the most sustainable approaches to meeting crop nitrogen (N) demands. The BNF is, especially, important in low value crops (e.g., forages) and in developing economies. However, just like synthetic N fertilizers, BNF has issues of its own. Among the issues of great importance is the low and highly variable proportion of fixed N2 transferred to non-N2-fixing plants. The proportion of transfer ranges from as low as 0% to as high as 70%, depending on a myriad of factors. Most of the factors (e.g., N fertilizer application, species, and cultivar selection) are management related and can, therefore, be controlled for improved N2 fixation and transfer. In this chapter, we discuss current trends in BNF in selected legume crops, the global economics of BNF, and recent reports on N2 transfer in agricultural production systems. Additionally, factors affecting N2 transfer and management considerations for improving N2 fixation and transfer are discussed.
Part of the book: Nitrogen in Agriculture