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Contribution of different sources and origins of nitrogen in above- and below-ground structures to the partial nitrogen balance in soybean.

A Correction to this article was published on 04 July 2022

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Most studies that quantified the biological N fixation (BNF) and partial N balances of soybean have ignored the belowground structures. Our objectives were to evaluate the contribution of belowground structures to the partial N balance of soybean and to identify the origin (soil or BNF) and source (apparent remobilization or current gain during the seed-filling period) of seed N.


Biomass, BNF, and N uptake coming from different N sources and origins, including belowground structures, were quantified in a two-year field study involving two soybean genotypes (MG IV and V) and two water availability conditions (rainfed and irrigated).


The inclusion of BNF-derived N present in belowground components (which averaged +12 kg N ha−1 at R7) changed the results of the partial N balances from negative to positive. BNF was the main origin of seed N, accounting for 73 and 79% of seed N under water stressed and non-stressed conditions, respectively. Regarding the seed N source, apparent remobilization was the main contributor to seed N under water stress, whereas current N gain was the main contributor to seed N in unstressed plants.


We conclude that i) the root system retains a relevant proportion of the atmospheric N fixed during the crop cycle and should be included in the partial N balance estimations; and ii) BNF is the main origin of seed N, even under contrasting growing conditions.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Change history



Nitrogen uptake


Biological nitrogen fixation


Nitrogen from biological nitrogen fixation


Nitrogen intake from soil nitrogen


Percentage of biological nitrogen fixation


Belowground biomass


Aboveground biomass

ABVeg :

Vegetative aboveground biomass


Total biomass


Partial balance


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We are greatly thankful for the help of Dr. Fernando García on funding acquisition. We also thank Diego Uliassi for assistance in field collections and agronomy interns for essential research collaboration in laboratory assistance.


This work was supported by Agencia Nacional de Promocion Cientifica y Tecnológica (ANPCyT - PICT 03431), University of Buenos Aires (UBACYT 20020170100686BA), International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) and Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA - National Projects PNCYO 1127033 and PE-I011).

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Esteban Kehoe: conceptualization, design of the research, performance of the research, data analysis, collection and interpretation, and writing the manuscript. Gerardo Rubio: conceptualization, funding acquisition, data interpretation and writing the manuscript. Fernando Salvagiotti: conceptualization, funding acquisition, design of the research, data interpretation and writing the manuscript. The authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Fernando Salvagiotti.

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Kehoe, E., Rubio, G. & Salvagiotti, F. Contribution of different sources and origins of nitrogen in above- and below-ground structures to the partial nitrogen balance in soybean.. Plant Soil (2022).

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  • Soybean
  • Biological nitrogen fixation
  • 15N abundance method
  • Apparent N gain
  • Apparent N remobilization
  • Belowground N