Nitrogen release from roots of alfalfa and soybean grown in sand culture

Abstract

An enclosed root chamber containing sterile sand medium was used to study net nitrogen (N) release from actively growing root systems of ‘Saranac’ alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and ‘Fiskeby V’ soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.). Plants were inoculated with a rhizobial strain appropriate to each host, irrigated with N-free nutrient solution, and grown either to 85 or to 173 d after germination (alfalfa) or to physiological maturity (soybean). Alfalfa released 4.5% of symbiotically-fixed plant N into the root zone over its growth period; soybean released 10.4% of plant N. Root zone leachates were analyzed for total N and for amino acid and ammonium content. Significant ammonium-N release occurred from the alfalfa but not the soybean root system; little amino-N was released by root systems of either species. Shoot harvest and water deficit caused increased release of N from alfalfa roots. The results provide evidence that alfalfa and soybean released significant proportions of their N into the root zone, and indicate that while substantial ammonium-N was released from alfalfa roots, passive leakage of amino-N was not a primary mechanism for N release from root systems of either species.

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Cooperative investigation of USDA-ARS and the Minnesota Agric. Exp. Stn. (Scientific J. Series No. 16048). This research was supported in part by a Graduate School Fellowship to LSB from the Univ. of Minnesota.

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Brophy, L.S., Heichel, G.H. Nitrogen release from roots of alfalfa and soybean grown in sand culture. Plant Soil 116, 77–84 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02327259

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Key words

  • alfalfa
  • amino acids
  • ammonium
  • Glycine max (L.) Merr.
  • leachates
  • lucerne
  • Medicago sativa L.
  • nitrogen
  • rhizosphere
  • root exudates
  • soyabean