Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is the term used for a process in which nitrogen gas (N2) from the atmosphere is incorporated into the tissue of certain plants. Only a select group of plants is able to obtain N this way, with the help of soil microorganisms.
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N2 NH4+ Nitrogen fixation is the process wherein N2 is converted to ammonium,essential because it is the only way that organisms can attain nitrogen directly from the atmosphere. Certain bacteria, for example those among the genus Rhizobium, are the only organisms that fix nitrogen through metabolic processes. Nitrogen fixing bacteria often form symbiotic relationships with host plants. This symbiosis is well-known to occur in the legume family of plants (e.g. beans, peas, and clover). In this relationship, nitrogen fixing bacteria inhabit legume root nodules (Figure 2) and receive carbohydrates and a favorable environment from their host plant in exchange for some of the nitrogen they fix. There are also nitrogen fixing bacteria that exist without plant hosts, known as freeliving nitrogen fixers. In aquatic environments, blue-green algae (really a bacteria called cyanobacteria) is an important free-living nitrogen fixer.