Nitrification: Definition, Cycle & Equation Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Nitrite: Definition, Structure & Formula

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What is Nitrification?
  • 0:45 The Chemical Process
  • 2:00 Nitrogen Cycle Continued
  • 3:40 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Robson

Kelly has taught High School Science and Applied Communications. She holds an Education Specialist Degree in Ed. Leadership.

Plants and animals need nitrogen. The lesson explains the process of turning nitrogen that is unusable by plants into a form of nitrogen that plants can use.

What Is Nitrification?

All living organisms need nitrogen, a chemical element used to form proteins. Proteins make up the structure of organisms and produce life-sustaining functions, including development, growth, and reproduction.

Ammonia (NH3) is a form of nitrogen found in soil. Nitrogen enters the soil in this organic form from decaying plants, animal waste, and lightning striking the Earth. While in this organic form, nitrogen can't be absorbed by plants. Therefore, it must be converted into a usable inorganic form.

Nitrification is the 2-step process of ammonia found in soil being turned into nitrates (NO3-), which are inorganic forms of nitrogen that plants can use. Let's look at this process in further detail.

The Chemical Process

In nitrification, ammonia is first converted to nitrites (NO2-) and then to nitrates. The initial step of this process, known as nitritation, involves a type of bacteria called nitrosomonas. During nitritation, nitrosomonas convert NH3 (ammonia) into NO2 (nitrogen dioxide). The chemical equation for this process is NH3 + 1.5 O2 --> NO2- + H+ + H20.

The second part of the nitrification process is called nitration. Nitration uses the enzyme nitrite oxidoreductase (NOR) to complete the nitrification process. The chemical equation for this reaction is NO2- + ½ O2 --> NO3.

Once both of these processes are complete, the organic form of nitrogen, ammonia, has been converted into an inorganic form of nitrogen, nitrate, that plants can use. The chemical equation 2NH3 + 3O2 --> 2NO2 + 2H+ + 2H20 summarizes the entire nitrification process.

Nitrification

Nitrogen Cycle Continued

To recap, nitrogen enters soil through decaying plants, animal waste, and lightning. When it enters the soil, it's in an organic unusable form. Bacteria in the soil are able to convert the organic nitrogen into nitrates, which plants are able to use.

Plants will suck up the inorganic nitrates and mix them with other chemicals found in the plants themselves to once again make organic substances. Here's a quick cheat sheet: nitrogen = organic in the ground > converted to inorganic by bacteria > then back to organic inside the plant.

These organic substances inside the plant make up substances such as enzymes, proteins, and chlorophyll. When animals eat the plants, they eliminate the nitrogen in their waste, and it returns to the soil in organic form. When plants die and decay, they, too, return nitrogen back to the soil in organic form.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support