Difference Wiki

Nitrogen Fixation vs. Nitrification: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on October 28, 2023
Nitrogen fixation is the process of converting atmospheric nitrogen (N₂) into ammonia (NH₃), while nitrification converts ammonia into nitrites and nitrates.

Key Differences

Nitrogen fixation and nitrification are vital processes in the nitrogen cycle, ensuring the conversion and availability of nitrogen for plants and other organisms. While nitrogen fixation refers to the conversion of atmospheric nitrogen (N2) into a usable form by certain bacteria, nitrification is the process by which ammonia is converted into nitrate by other sets of bacteria.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023
The primary function of nitrogen fixation is to make atmospheric nitrogen accessible to plants. Specific bacteria, like those in the root nodules of legumes or some free-living bacteria in the soil, capture and convert N2 into ammonia (NH3) or related compounds. On the other hand, nitrification acts as a subsequent step, where ammonia, either from fixation or other sources, undergoes a two-step conversion: first to nitrite (NO2-) and then to nitrate (NO3-), primarily by nitrifying bacteria.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023
While nitrogen fixation is an anaerobic process that requires a lot of energy, often derived from the breakdown of carbohydrates by the bacteria, nitrification is an aerobic process conducted by nitrifying bacteria in the presence of oxygen. These distinctions in conditions mean that nitrogen-fixing bacteria and nitrifying bacteria thrive in different soil environments, with fixation preferring low-oxygen conditions and nitrification demanding well-aerated soils.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023
Both nitrogen fixation and nitrification have significant agricultural implications. With fixation, crops like beans and peas can acquire nitrogen directly from the atmosphere, reducing the need for nitrogenous fertilizers. Meanwhile, nitrification ensures that nitrogen in the soil is in the form of nitrates, which are more easily taken up by plant roots than ammonia or nitrite.
Sara Rehman
Oct 28, 2023

Comparison Chart

Process

Converts N₂ to NH₃
Converts NH₃ to NO₂⁻ and then to NO₃⁻
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023
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Main Microbes Involved

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria
Ammonia-oxidizing and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Importance in Nitrogen Cycle

Introduces available nitrogen to ecosystems
Transforms ammonia to less harmful nitrates
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Occurs in

Root nodules of legumes and some free-living bacteria
Soil and aquatic environments
Aimie Carlson
Oct 28, 2023

Associated with

Leguminous plants
Soil nitrates
Aimie Carlson
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrogen Fixation and Nitrification Definitions

Nitrogen Fixation

A microbial process of making nitrogen available.
The nitrogen fixation by bacteria helps plants grow.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 28, 2023
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Nitrification

The transformation of toxic ammonia.
After nitrification, plants can easily take up the resulting nitrates.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrogen Fixation

The synthesis of organic nitrogen compounds.
Through nitrogen fixation, some plants can thrive in nitrogen-poor soils.
Harlon Moss
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrification

A two-step microbial oxidation process.
Nitrification in the aquarium filter helps detoxify the water.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrogen Fixation

Introduction of biologically useful nitrogen.
Crop rotation uses legumes for nitrogen fixation to benefit subsequent crops.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrification

A bacterial-driven soil process.
Proper aeration promotes nitrification in wastewater treatment.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrogen Fixation

Conversion of atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia.
Symbiotic bacteria in legume roots aid in nitrogen fixation.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrification

Production of soil nitrates from ammonia.
Nitrification ensures the conversion of harmful ammonia to plant-friendly nitrates.
Harlon Moss
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrogen Fixation

The assimilation of gaseous nitrogen.
Certain bacteria excel at nitrogen fixation from the air.
Sara Rehman
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrification

Conversion of ammonia to nitrites and nitrates.
The soil underwent nitrification, increasing its nitrate content.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 28, 2023

Nitrification

To oxidize (an ammonia compound) into a nitrite or (a nitrite) into a nitrate, especially by the action of nitrifying bacteria.
Sumera Saeed
Sep 12, 2019

FAQs

Are both nitrogen fixation and nitrification biological processes?

Yes, both are mainly microbial processes.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

What microbes drive nitrification?

Ammonia-oxidizing and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

How does nitrification relate to the nitrogen cycle?

Nitrification transforms ammonia to nitrites and nitrates, facilitating nitrogen uptake by plants.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 28, 2023

Is ammonia the end product of nitrogen fixation?

Yes, ammonia is the primary product of nitrogen fixation.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

What does nitrification achieve?

Nitrification converts toxic ammonia to less harmful nitrites and nitrates.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Which bacteria are primarily involved in nitrogen fixation?

Nitrogen-fixing bacteria, like Rhizobium species, are key players.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Why is nitrification vital for plants?

It transforms ammonia, which can be toxic, into plant-accessible nitrates.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 28, 2023

How do wastewater treatment plants utilize nitrification?

They use nitrification to convert ammonia to nitrates, detoxifying the water.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 28, 2023

What is the primary role of nitrogen fixation?

Nitrogen fixation converts atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia, making it available to plants.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Where does nitrogen fixation predominantly occur?

Mainly in the root nodules of leguminous plants.
Sara Rehman
Oct 28, 2023

Does nitrification involve one type of bacteria?

No, it's a two-step process involving ammonia-oxidizing and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria.
Harlon Moss
Oct 28, 2023

Is nitrification a natural process?

Yes, it naturally occurs in soils and waters.
Janet White
Oct 28, 2023

Can human activities influence nitrogen fixation?

Yes, practices like crop rotation can leverage natural nitrogen fixation.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

What happens if nitrification is inhibited in soil?

Ammonia might accumulate, which can be harmful to plants.
Sumera Saeed
Oct 28, 2023

Why is nitrogen fixation important?

It introduces biologically available nitrogen into ecosystems.
Harlon Moss
Oct 28, 2023

In what environments does nitrification primarily happen?

Mostly in soil and aquatic environments.
Harlon Moss
Oct 28, 2023

Can plants directly use atmospheric nitrogen?

No, plants cannot use atmospheric nitrogen; they rely on processes like nitrogen fixation.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 28, 2023

Is nitrogen fixation exclusive to legumes?

While common in legumes, some free-living bacteria also perform nitrogen fixation.
Janet White
Oct 28, 2023

Are both nitrogen fixation and nitrification part of the nitrogen cycle?

Yes, they're essential stages in the nitrogen cycle.
Sara Rehman
Oct 28, 2023

Can nitrogen fixation occur outside of plants?

Yes, certain free-living bacteria can also fix nitrogen.
Janet White
Oct 28, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.

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