, Volume 108, Issue 1, pp 93-110

Mineral constraints to nitrogen fixation

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Abstract

Mineral nturient defiencies are a major constraint limiting legume nitrogen fixation and yield. In this review general techniques for assessing nutrient involvement in symbiotic nitrogen fixation are described and specific methods are outlined for determining which developmental phase of the symbiosis is most sensitive to nutrient deficiency.

The mineral nutrition of the Rhizobium component of the symbiosis is considered both as the free living organism in the soil and as bacteroids in root nodules. Rhizobial growth and survival in soils is not usually limited by nutrient availability. Multiplication of rhizobia in the legume rhizosphere is limited by low Ca availability. Nodule initiation is affected by severe Co deficiency through effects on rhizobia. Nodule development is limited by severe B deficiency via an effect on plant cell growth. Fe deficiency limits nodule development by affecting rhizobia and strains of rhizobia differ widely in their ability to acquire sufficient Fe for their symbiotic development. Nodule function requires more Mo than does the host plant, and in some symbioses nitrogen fixation may be specifically limited by low availability of Ca, Co, Cu and Fe. The importance of the peribacteriod membrane in determining nutrient availability to bacteroids is considered.

It is concluded that the whole legume-Rhizobium symbiosis should be considered when improving legume growth and yield under nutrient stress conditions. Differences among rhizobial strains in their ability to obtain mineral nutrients from their environment may be agronomically important.