Plant and Soil

, Volume 365, Issue 1–2, pp 363–374 | Cite as

Nitrogen contributions from faba bean (Vicia faba L.) reliant on soil rhizobia or inoculation

  • Matthew D. DentonEmail author
  • David J. Pearce
  • Mark B. Peoples
Regular Article


Background and Aims

Understanding the impact of soil rhizobial populations and inoculant rhizobia in supplying sufficient nodulation is crucial to optimising N2 fixation by legume crops. This study explored the impact of different rates of inoculant rhizobia and contrasting soil rhizobia on nodulation and N2 fixation in faba bean (Vicia faba L.).


Faba beans were inoculated with one of seven rates of rhizobial inoculation, from no inoculant to 100 times the normal rate of inoculation, sown at two field sites, with or without soil rhizobia present, and their nodulation and N2 fixation assessed.


At the site without soil rhizobia, inoculation increased nodule number and increased N2 fixation from 21 to 129 kg shoot N ha−1, while N2 fixation increased from 132 to 218 kg shoot N ha−1 at the site with high background soil rhizobia. At the site without soil rhizobia, inoculation increased concentrations of shoot N from 14 to 24 mg g−1, grain N from 32 to 45 mg g−1, and grain yields by 1.0 Mg (metric tonne) ha−1. Differences in nodulation influenced the contributions of fixed N to the system, which varied from the net removal of 20 kg N ha−1 from the system in the absence of rhizobia, to a net maximum input of 199 kg N ha−1 from legume shoot and root residues, after accounting for removal of N in grain harvest.


The impact of inoculation and soil rhizobia strongly influenced grain yield, grain N concentration and the potential contributions of legume cropping to soil N fertility. In soil with resident rhizobia, N2 fixation was improved only with the highest inoculation rate.


N natural abundance Faba bean Grain legume Nitrogen fixation Nodule Pulse Rhizobia Rhizobium 



This work was funded through the Grains Research and Development Corporation as part of the National Rhizobium Program (UMU00032) and crop sequencing project (CSP000146). Technical assistance provided by Bernadette Carmody was much appreciated. David Rees assisted with identification of soil types and Chris Dyson assisted with statistical support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew D. Denton
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David J. Pearce
    • 1
  • Mark B. Peoples
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Primary IndustriesRutherglenAustralia
  2. 2.School of Agriculture, Food and WineThe University of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture National Research FlagshipCSIRO Plant IndustryCanberraAustralia

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