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“We have given you, O Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation, select, these same you may have and possess through your own judgement and decision […] We have made you a creature neither of heaven nor of earth, neither mortal nor immortal as the free and proud shaper of your own being, fashion yourself in the form you may prefer.”

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

Nitrogen till the root

published on 9.10.2019

Nitrogen is an essential element for life, but since its availability is limited it must be recycled. The most important compartment on the planet where it accumulates is the atmosphere (N2). Hence, special bacteria introduce it into the biosphere through a process called fixation. Once there, it is transferred through the food chain from vegetables to herbivorous, and from herbivorous to carnivores. When all these organisms die, or through their excretion, the N returns to the ground, and from there other special bacteria return it to the atmosphere in a process called denitrification.
This cycle was altered when at the beginning of the 20th century the German chemist Fritz Haber invented a method to synthesize ammonia (NH3) from its components, N2 and H2. Thanks to this invention, he won the Nobel Prize in 1919. Currently 225 million tons of ammonia are fixed artificially per year, which are used mainly to make fertilizers, and has allowed the exponential growth of Humanity. Unfortunately, a part of these N is also used to make explosives. In addition, humans tend to fertilize excessively and contaminate ecosystems with N in a process called eutrophication. Car exhaust pipes also pollute the atmosphere with oxides of N (NOx).
Two recent inventions will help us restore the equilibrium of the N cycle: the catalysts of cars that eliminate toxic gases and electrodenitrification, a revolutionary method invented and patented by the Catalan company Hydrokemós to eliminate nitrates from water transforming them into atmospheric gas N2, and avoiding the brine of the osmosis method.
The following spoke: Josep Maria Gasol, Institute of Marine Sciences (CSIC), Narcís Homs Professor of Inorganic Chemistry, UB, Jordi Elias, farmer, Patxi Igual, Igual Pyrotechnics, Xavier Querol, IDÆA-CSIC, and Ruth Canicio, Hydrokemós.

Alkaloids and herbivory
Alkaloids are nitrogen molecules of plant origin derived from amino acids. The plants secrete them to be bitter and deter herbivores, that is, they use them for chemical defense. A team from the Department of Plant Physiology of the UB, led by ecophysiologist Sergi Munné-Bosch, has conducted a study in Montserrat with a typically Mediterranean plant called jara (Cistus albidus), to determine how different chemical compounds vary in a population exposed to the herbivory of the wild goat.

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