Plant and Soil

, Volume 80, Issue 2, pp 267–283 | Cite as

Effect of osmotically induced leaf moisture stress on nodulation and nitrogenase activity ofGlycine max

  • P. M. Williams
  • Margarita Sicardi de Mallorca


The effect of 2-day cycles of osmotically induced leaf moisture stress followed by partial recovery on the nodulation and nitrogenase activity of 2 soya cultivars was studied. Fourteen days after plant inoculation (mid-growth stage) the total leaf electrochemical water potential (ψwleaf) of control plants ranged from −0.8 to −1.9 bars, whereas the concentrations of osmoticum (polyethylene glycol 4000) induced ψwleaf values ranging from −1.4 (recovery value) to −3.1 bars (low stress), −1.8 to −4.4 bars (mild stress), and −2.2 to −6.2 bars (medium stress). The low stress treatment reduced nodule numbers and their specific activity in both cultivars, without affecting nodule size or the time required for nodule initiation. Nodule initiation was delayed in both cultivars by the mild and medium stress treatments, the former treatment reducing the number and size of the nodules and such nodules exhibited very low specific activity. The medium stress treatment prevented the further development of nodule initials, which remained inactive throughout the experiment. Such results imply an effect of water stress on the infection process and on nodule morphogenesis. The reduction in nodule numbers observed in water stressed plants was not associated with a reduced number of rhizobia in the rhizoplane nor due to an effect on root growth or root hair formation.

At a stage prior to the formation of macroscopic nodule initials, the roots of plants under medium stress (ψwleaf=−5.5 bar)s) had a higher content of abscisic acid (ABA) (4-fold increase) and a lower content of gibberellin (GA)-like substances (21.4% reduction) as compared to control plants (ψwleaf=−1.0 bar). Although the medium stress treatment slightly increased the stomatal resistance of leaves, photosynthetic and transpiration rates were unaffected. Similar alterations of the hormononal balance occurred in the nodulated roots of plants subjected to naturally induced leaf moisture stress.

Since the foliar application of ABA (1.92×10−5M) to unstressed plants inhibited nodulation (45% reduction in nodule numbers), the increased endogenous content of thishormone in the roots of plants under leaf moisture stress may provide some physiological insight into the inhibitory effect of water stress on the nodulation process.

Key words

Abscisic acid Gibberellin Polyethylene glycol Rhizobium Roots Nitrogenase Nodulation Soya Water stress 


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. M. Williams
    • 1
  • Margarita Sicardi de Mallorca
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones CientíficasCentro de Microbiologia y Biología CellularCaracasVenezuela

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