The formation of nitrites and nitrates from ammonia and its compounds in the soil, was formerly held to be a purely chemical process, until Schloesing and Mintz suggested in 1877 that it was biological.
Rend., 1904 seq.) by fractional crystallization of the nickel double nitrates, the ethyl sulphates, and the bismuth double nitrates of the terbium earths.
The green plant prefers as a rule nitrates of various metals, such as calcium, magnesium or potassium.
Long ago the view that this gas might be the source of the combined nitrogen found in different forms within the plant, was critically examined, particularly by Boussingault, and later by Lawes and Gilbert and by Pugh, and it was ascertained to be erroneous, the plants only taking nitrogen into their substance when it is presented to their roots in the form of nitrates of various metals, or compounds of ammonia.
While they are quite capable of taking up nitrates from the soil where and so long as these are present, they can grow and thrive in soil which contains no combined nitrogen at all, deriving their supplies of this element in these cases from the air.
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