Plant and Soil

, Volume 252, Issue 1, pp 1–9 | Cite as

The success of BNF in soybean in Brazil

  • Bruno J. R. Alves
  • Robert M. Boddey
  • Segundo Urquiaga


Approximately forty years after commercial cropping of soybean in Brazil began, the total area under this crop has reached over 13 M ha with a mean productivity of 2400 kg ha−1. Soybean varieties introduced from the USA and varieties rescued from early introductions in Brazilian territory were part of the Brazilian soybean-breeding programme which spread the crop from high to low latitudes. Disease-resistance, pest-resistance, tolerance to low fertility soils, as well as production of plants with pods sufficiently high above the ground for efficient mechanical harvesting, were all aims of the programme. Although BNF was not explicitly considered as a trait for selection in the breeding/selection programme, maximisation of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) was favoured by conducting selection and breeding trials on soils low in N, in which the seeds were inoculated with efficient Bradyrhizobium inoculants but without N fertiliser application. Several efficient imported Bradyrhizobium strains were found to be unable to compete with native soil micro-flora and other previously-introduced Bradyrhizobium strains. Surprisingly, after being in the soil for many years one or two of these strains had become more competitive while maintaining their high BNF capacity. Today, these strains are included amongst the recommended Brazilian inoculants and have promoted significant improvements in grain yields. The breeding of soybeans in conditions that made grain yield highly dependent on BNF, and the continuous attention paid to the selection of Bradyrhizobium strains appropriate for the newly released varieties, have been the main contributors to today's high yields and their great benefit to the Brazilian economy. There seems to be no reason why this ongoing research programme should not serve as an appropriate model to improve BNF inputs to grain legumes in other countries of the world.

biological nitrogen fixation Bradyrhizobium inoculants Brazil plant breeding soybean 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruno J. R. Alves
    • 1
  • Robert M. Boddey
    • 1
  • Segundo Urquiaga
    • 1
  1. 1.Embrapa AgrobiologiaSeropédicaBrazil

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