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Phosphorus Nutrition Enhancement of Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Pastures

Part of the Sustainable Agriculture Reviews book series (SARV,volume 58)


Nitrogen (N) is the most limiting plant nutrient in agroecosystems. The increasing use of N-containing fertilizers increases greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater contamination. Biological nitrogen fixation is an eco-friendly source of N that can reduce the use of mineral fertilizers. Biological nitrogen fixation potentially accounts for half of the total N on earth and has been reported to supply approximately 50–128 × 109 kg N year−1 in different agroecosystems. However, optimal biological nitrogen fixation depends on phosphorus (P) nutrition. For instance, the conversion of dinitrogen to ammonia by nitrogenase enzyme depends on P as adenosine triphosphate. Here, we review the role of P in biological nitrogen fixation with focus on the increase in the productivity of pasture crops, and the use of mycorrhization in pastures. Mycorrhization, the symbiotic association between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and plants, can account for 80% of total P uptake by plants. Mycorrhization provides optimal soil P required for N transfer from N2-fixing forage legumes to non-N2 and N2-fixing forage grasses during intercropping. Intercropping N2-fixing forage legumes and non-legumes can fix up to 16–124 kg N ha−1 and contribute about 475–700 kg N ha−1 year−1 on pasture fields. Further, the inclusion of N2-fixing and P-mobilizing forage crop species with non-N2-fixing and non-P-mobilizing species facilitates root interaction and acquisition of N and P. The association of pasture crop mixtures, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and N2-fixing bacteria further promotes crops’ tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses.


  • Biological nitrogen fixation
  • Phosphorus
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • Pasture productivity
  • Legumes
  • N2-fixing bacteria
  • Non-N2-fixing forage crops
  • P-mobilizing pasture species
  • Tripartite association

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SKB conceptualized the idea and wrote the first draft. TOM designed the figures. SKB, TOM, SOJ, IOO and SU thoroughly reviewed the manuscript. All authors approved the final submission.

Declaration of Competing Interest

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.


This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Correspondence to Suleiman Kehinde Bello .

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© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

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Bello, S.K., Muraina, T.O., Jimoh, S.O., Olasupo, I.O., Usman, S. (2023). Phosphorus Nutrition Enhancement of Biological Nitrogen Fixation in Pastures. In: Iqbal, A., et al. Sustainable Agriculture Reviews 58. Sustainable Agriculture Reviews, vol 58. Springer, Cham.

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