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Ammonification – Definition, Stages, Examples and FAQs

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  • Last Updated : 22 Aug, 2022
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One of the essential elements for the survival of all living things is nitrogen. It is a need for the formation of numerous biomolecules, such as proteins, DNA, and chlorophyll. Despite being present in great abundance in the atmosphere as dinitrogen gas, most species cannot access it in this form, making it a limited resource that frequently limits primary productivity in many ecosystems. Nitrogen is not readily available to primary producers like plants until it is changed from dinitrogen gas to ammonia.

Nitrogen can be found in a wide variety of inorganic and organic forms in addition to dinitrogen and ammonia. Thus, as organisms use nitrogen for growth and, in some circumstances, energy, it goes through a variety of distinct changes throughout the environment. Nitrogen is mostly changed by nitrogen fixation, nitrification, denitrification, ammonium production, and anammox. The productivity of the biosphere depends heavily on the oxidation of nitrogen into its many oxidation states, which is accomplished by a wide group of microorganisms.


The nitrogen cycle includes the process of ammonification, which gives organisms the vital nitrogen they require to exist. Ammonification is the process through which microscopic organisms, such as bacteria or other sorts of decaying creatures, convert compounds containing nitrogen from dead organic matter into simple molecules such as ammonia. These fewer complex materials support the ecology.

What Do Bacteria Do During Ammonification?

Any living thing that passes away releases nitrogen from its cells or tissues in the form of nitrogen (organic form), such as amino acids and DNA. Additionally, a number of microbes, including fungi, prokaryotes, and others collaborate to break down the tissue and transform organic nitrogen into inorganic nitrogen. Each bacteria makes use of this inorganic form.



Steps involved in Ammonification

  1. In this ammonification process, the NH3 groups are converted to (NH4+), and ammonia is the end result.
  2. The substrates for the ammonification process are urea, uric acid, and organic nitrogen from feces.
  3. Ammonia can then be digested and combined to produce a range of amino acids, which are necessary for a number of metabolic processes.
  4. Living things contain proteins, nucleic acids, DNA, vitamins, urea, and other molecules that carry nitrogen.

Implications of Ammonification

  1. Organic nitrogen is transformed into inorganic ammonia or ammonium ions during the ammonification process. The way nitrogen appears in compounds in living beings is as organic nitrogen.
  2. Ions, proteins, vitamin B, urea, and other chemicals, for instance, are some examples of nitrogen-containing substances in living things.
  3. Nitrogen is present in the waste products and dead plant or animal corpses used in ammonification.
  4. The environment should include nitrogen that can be utilized by living things. Ammonification is crucial in this situation because it adds nitrogen to the soil in a way that plants can use and transport through the food chain.
  5. Ammonification is the most effective way to get nitrogen for many species of plants that thrive in acidic soils.
  6. When fertilizers are introduced to the soil to raise the ammonia levels, it may result in excessive growth of algae, causing toxicity of the soil and ecosystem imbalance.

Examples of ammonification

Bacillus, proteus, clostridium, pseudomonas, and streptomyces are a few examples of ammonifying bacteria.


Another crucial phase in the global nitrogen cycle is nitrification, which transforms ammonia into nitrite and ultimately nitrate. The majority of nitrification is done aerobically and only by prokaryotes. Different kinds of microorganisms perform the two distinct stages of nitrification. Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria perform the first step, which is the oxidation of ammonia to nitrite.

Ammonia monooxygenase and hydroxylamine oxidoreductase are two distinct enzymes required by aerobic ammonia oxidizers to convert ammonia to nitrite via the intermediary hydroxylamine. Because the process produces a very little quantity of energy in comparison to many other types of metabolism, nitrosofiers are renowned for being extremely sluggish growth. Additionally, like photosynthetic organisms, aerobic ammonia oxidizers are autotrophs that fix carbon dioxide to generate organic carbon utilizing ammonia as their energy source rather than light.

Ammonia oxidation is less common among prokaryotes than nitrogen fixation, which is carried out by a wide variety of microorganisms. It was previously believed that only a small number of different bacterial species were responsible for all ammonia oxidation. Our knowledge of the physiological variety of ammonia-oxidizing archaeons is currently restricted because just one of them has been cultivated in pure culture.

The conversion of nitrite to nitrate is the second stage of nitrification. A distinct group of prokaryotes known as nitrite-oxidizing bacteria performs this action. Growth yields are extremely poor because nitrite to nitrate oxidation produces very little energy, just like ammonia oxidizers do. In actuality, a large number of ammonia or nitrite molecules must be oxidized before one carbon dioxide molecule may be fixed by an ammonia or nitrite oxidizer.

In aerobic conditions, nitrite- and ammonia-oxidizers are common. They have been thoroughly investigated in a variety of natural settings, including soils, estuaries, lakes, and open oceans. However, by removing potentially dangerous quantities of ammonium that could result in the contamination of the receiving waters, ammonia- and nitrite-oxidizers also serve a crucial function in wastewater treatment plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: What are nitrogen tanks used for?


Nitrogen is utilized to prevent oxidation and to create a secure, inert atmosphere that removes gases produced by furnaces.

Question 2: How is nitrogen fixed?


The diazotrophs, which include bacteria like Azotobacter and archaea, are a diverse group of microbes that fix nitrogen in the soil biologically. Legumes in particular have symbiotic relationships with bacteria that fix nitrogen.

Question 3: How does nitrogen occur in the environment?


The atmosphere contains the majority of nitrogen molecules. Nitrates and nitrites, two forms of nitrogen, can be found in both soil and water.

Question 4: Define denitrification.


Nitrogen compounds can be released back into the atmosphere by the conversion of nitrate to gaseous nitrogen. The penultimate stage of the nitrogen cycle takes place during this time without oxygen.

Question 5: What are the products of ammonification?


The products of ammonification are ammonia and ammonium ions.

Question 6: When does ammonification occur?


Ammonification occurs during the process of nitrogen fixation.

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