The suitability of Brachypodium distachyon for the study of ammonium stress in cereals

Most plants acquire nitrogen from the soil in the form of nitrate (NO3) or ammonium (NH4+). Ammonium-based nutrition is gaining interest because it helps to avoid environmental concerns associated with nitrate fertilisation. The two main issues with nitrate-based fertilisers are the leaching of excess fertiliser into water courses and the formation of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouses gas, that contributes to global warming. Ammonium-based fertilisers are useful in mitigating some of these unwanted environmental effects. Unfortunately, plants tend to respond less to ammonium compared to nitrate fertilisation.

Brachypodium distachyon metabolic performance confirms its suitability as a model species to study ammonium nutrition in cereals. Image credit: de la Peña et al.

A recent study by de la Peña et al. and published in AoBP  proposes the grass Brachypodium distachyon as a highly suitable tool for the study of the molecular and genetic basis of ammonium nutrition in cereals. The study shows that B. distachyon is a species with moderate tolerance to ammonium nutrition. The authors observed a strong metabolic adaptation of B. distachyon carbon and nitrogen metabolism when facing ammonium-only N nutrition. Overall, these responses of B. distachyon to ammonium nutrition are in line with previous studies with cereals crops and underlines the potential of B. distachyon as a useful tool for analysing the molecular basis of ammonium tolerance in monocots.  This is of great importance in the context of promoting more environmentally friendly nitrogen fertilization.

Researcher highlight

Daniel Marino performed his PhD in the Public University of Navarre (Pamplona) and then spent five years as a postdoctoral researcher in France (Toulouse and Sophia-Antipolis). From 2012 he was hired by Ikerbasque, the Basque Foundation for Science, to pursuit his career as independent researcher in the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) in Bilbao (Spain).

Daniel Marino is a plant physiologist interested in discovering the metabolic and genetic basis related with nitrogen use efficiency in plants. A main part of his work is focused on ammonium nutrition working in different species including crops such as tomato and wheat and models such as Arabidopsis thalianaand Brachypodium distachyon.

More information about Daniel and his work can be found at

William Salter

William (Tam) Salter is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney. He has a bachelor degree in Ecological Science (Hons) from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in plant ecophysiology from the University of Sydney. Tam is interested in the identification and elucidation of plant traits that could be useful for ecosystem resilience and future food security under global environmental change. He is also very interested in effective scientific communication.

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