Estimating N2 fixation by Sesbania rostrata and S. cannabina (syn. S. aculeata) in lowland rice soil by the 15N dilution method

Summary

A field experiment in concrete-based plots was conducted to estimate the contribution of N derived from air (Ndfa) or biological N2 fixation in Sesbania rostrata and S. cannabina (syn. S. aculeata), using various references, by the 15N dilution method. The two Sesbania species as N2-fixing reference plants and four aquatic weed species as non-N2-fixing references were grown for 65 days after sowing in two consecutive crops, in the dry and the wet seasons, under flooded conditions. Soil previously labeled with 15N at 0.26 atom % 15N excess in mineralizable N was further labeled by ammonium sulfate with 3 and 6 atom % 15N excess. The results showed that 15N enrichment of soil NH +4 -N dropped exponentially in the first crop to half the original level in 50 days while in the second crop, it declined gradually to half the level in 130 days. The decline in 15N enrichment, in both N2-fixing and non-fixing species, was also steeper in the first crop than in the second crop. Variations in 15N enrichment among non-fixing species were smaller in the second crop. The ratio of the uptake of soil N to that of fertilizer N in N2-fixing and non-fixing species was estimated by the technique of varying the 15N level. In the second crop, this ratio in non-fixing species was higher than that in N2-fixing species. Comparable estimates of % Ndfa were obtained by using 15N enrichment of various non-fixing species. There was also good agreement between the estimates obtained by using 15N enrichment of non-fixing species and those by using soil NH +4 -N, particularly in the second crop. By 25 days after sowing, the first crop of both Sesbania spp. had obtained 50% of total N from the atmosphere and the second crop had obtained 75%. The contribution from air increased with the age of the plant and ranged from 70% to 95% in 45–55 days. S. rostrata fixed substantially higher amounts of N2 due to its higher biomass production compared with S. cannabina. Mathematical considerations in applying the 15N dilution method are discussed with reference to these results.

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Pareek, R.P., Ladha, J.K. & Watanabe, I. Estimating N2 fixation by Sesbania rostrata and S. cannabina (syn. S. aculeata) in lowland rice soil by the 15N dilution method. Biol Fertil Soils 10, 77–88 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00336241

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Key words

  • Sesbania rostrata
  • Sesbania cannabina (syn. Sesbania aculeata)
  • Non-N2-fixing reference
  • Biological N2 fixation
  • 15N dilution
  • 15N atom % excess