Professor Clive Ronson featured on Radio New Zealand National's science show Our Changing World on Thursday to discuss some new discoveries in the relationship between clover and bacteria.
Clover could be considered New Zealand's most important agricultural plant due to its ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil. However this is not just due to the plant itself, but a clever relationship with the bacteria ('rhizobia') that live in its root structure. Without this symbiotic arrangement, additional nitrogen fertiliser would be required, increasing the cost to farmers and the environment.
It's a competitive world, says Professor Ronson, with many different rhizobia that perform this role, so current research is looking at utilising the best bacteria available to pair with clover species. His research team has uncovered the way clover recognises the particular rhizobia with the right 'dress code', inviting them to join in the common goal of nitrogen fixation.