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Role of microbes in nitrogen cycle:
We know that the atmospheric air around us constitutes about 79% of nitrogen. Nitrogen is present in the structure of amino acids, which combine to form different vital proteins required for the growth, development and maintenance of plants and animals. Nitrogen is also present in chlorophyll, nucleic acids, vitamins and minerals. The nitrogen cannot be used directly by plants and animals from the atmospheric air. This is where micro-organisms come in to play .
Certain microbes like blue-green algae and other bacteria help in fixing nitrogen from the air into the soil. Soils bearing leguminous plants offer a good environment for the microbes to fix the nitrogen as various nitrogenous compounds like nitrites, nitrates into the soil. The nitrogen present in the soil is then transported in to different parts of the plant and used for synthesis of food and stored in vegetables, stem and leaves. Animals and humans, directly or indirectly depend on plants for food and hence this nitrogen is transferred in to the animals from plants.
Plants also avail nitrogen and nitrogenous compounds from the dead and decaying matter of animals by a process called denitrification. In denitrification process, the microbes responsible for decomposing the dead matter of animals are also responsible for converting nitrogenous compounds into nitrogen gas and releasing it into the atmospheric air. This results in balancing the nitrogen composition of the air.