Science: Bacteria & War

More TNT or more food—more TNT or more nitrogenous fertilizers to make U.S. crops bumper? The answer to this tough wartime question seemed to be more TNT: Department of Agriculture scientists last week foresaw a 53% cut in nitrogenous fertilizers. Behind this possibility was the increased demand for nitrogen, source of both explosives and fertilizers. Though chemical plants now building will soon triple U.S. capacity to produce nitrogen from the air, TNT production is fast approaching 6,000 tons a day. But chemists and farmers have a partial substitute for fertilizer—nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

These useful germs, the only controllable source of agricultural nitrogen besides...

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