How does Ni fertilization affect a responsive soybean genotype? A dose study

  • Douglas Siqueira Freitas
  • Bruna Wurr Rodak
  • Marco Aurélio Carbone Carneiro
  • Luiz Roberto Guimarães GuilhermeEmail author
Regular Article


Background and aims

Nickel affects a wide range of physiological processes in plants, which may result in higher growth and yield. Recent studies demonstrate that soybean genotypes show positive, but differential, responsiveness to Ni-fertilization. Thus, this study investigated the impact of supplying this micronutrient to a soybean genotype previously known to be responsive to Ni-fertilization, with the aim of identifying a suitable range of Ni for the adequate development of this crop plant.


We tested, under greenhouse conditions, the effect of applying six Ni doses (0.00, 0.25, 0.50, 1.00, 3.00, and 9.00 mg kg−1) via soil to a commonly-grown soybean genotype. Soybean plants were evaluated for nutrition, physiology, growth, N-urea metabolism, and efficiency of the N2 fixation process.


Nickel supply positively affected the physiology and growth of the genotype, indicating a deficiency of this micronutrient. Ni-application also led to an increased N metabolism; in particular, nodules had a higher nitrogenase activity associated with greater Ni-concentrations in areas of highest metabolic activity. By exploiting the data acquired in a growth response curve (grain yield x Ni concentration), the greatest beneficial effects were observed following an application of 3.35 mg of Ni kg−1. A supply of more than 4.25 mg of Ni kg−1 was toxic to the plants.


Ni-fertilization improved the N-mineral and N-biological assimilation pathways of soybean, optimizing the overall development of the plants. Through this study, we defined a reliable and adequate Ni-range for both plants and soil, which can be used as a basis for agricultural practice. Moreover, supplying plants with Ni at the recommended doses was revealed to be safe for in natura human consumption of soybean grains; however, more studies are required to establish the appropriate safety limit standards for soybean-based food products.


Glycine max Urease activity N2-fixation Nickel deficiency Nickel toxicity Nodulation 



The authors would like to thank the Brazilian Coordination for Improvement of Higher Level Personnel (CAPES), Brazilian Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), and Minas Gerais State Research Support Foundation (FAPEMIG) for funding this research project. We would like to thank also the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS), project number XRF-20160659, for supporting us on μ-SXRF analysis. Lastly, we thank the researchers Dr. Soraya Marx Bamberg and Victor Henrique Silva Avelar for their contributions on the development of this study.

Author contributions

DSF and BWR contributed equally to this work. MACC and LRGG are the coordinators of our research group.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas Siqueira Freitas
    • 1
  • Bruna Wurr Rodak
    • 1
  • Marco Aurélio Carbone Carneiro
    • 1
  • Luiz Roberto Guimarães Guilherme
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratory of Soil Microbiology and Environmental Geochemistry, Department of Soil ScienceFederal University of LavrasLavrasBrazil

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