Improved estimation of biological nitrogen fixation of soybean cultivars (Glycine max L. Merril) using 15N natural abundance technique

Abstract

Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) of 17 soybean cultivars was comparatively estimated by the δ15N natural abundance technique using two non-nodulation soybeans (Clay and Chippewa) as reference plants. A field study was established on the experimental farm of the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin on a typical “terre de barre” soil classified by Food and Agriculture Organization-United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as Rhodic Ferralsol. A nitrogen-free pot trial was also carried out using soil substrate sampled from the Atlantic Ocean beach. In the N-free medium, N content of the whole soybean cultivars ranged from 2.6 to 8.1 mg N per plant compared with an average of 1.8 mg N per plant observed with the non-fixing soybeans. Plant δ15N of the nodulating soybeans ranged from −2.7756‰ (Jupiter) to 0.1951‰ (Conquista), while the non-nodulating cultivars Chippewa and Clay had 2.67‰ and 9.30‰, respectively. Percentage and amount of N derived from air (Ndfa) were significantly different (P < 0.01) among soybean cultivars, and values depended highly on the selected reference plants. When Clay was used as the reference plant, the average percentage Ndfa was 1.4 times higher than when Chippewa was the reference plant. Both reference plants consistently ranked promiscuous soybean cvs. TG× 1894 3F and TG× 1908 8F as the best cultivars and cv. TG× 1888 29F as the least in percentage Ndfa, suggesting that any of the reference plants could be used in δ15N method for assessing N2-fixation. The two identified promiscuous soybean cultivars with greatest capacity to fix N could be included in a soybean extension program for West African farming systems.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to the VLIR Own Initiative Project entitled “Restoration of soil fertility in the south and centre of Benin” funded by the Belgian government which provided funding and offered laboratory facilities through training in Ghent University to support soil and plant analysis.

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Correspondence to P. Houngnandan.

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Houngnandan, P., Yemadje, R.G.H., Oikeh, S.O. et al. Improved estimation of biological nitrogen fixation of soybean cultivars (Glycine max L. Merril) using 15N natural abundance technique. Biol Fertil Soils 45, 175–183 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00374-008-0311-5

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Keywords

  • Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation
  • δ15N signatures
  • Reference plants
  • Soybeans
  • Isotopic fractionation