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Nitrogen fixation of soybean glycine max and alfalfa medicago sativa comparison of the isotope dilution and difference methods



Nitrogen fixation of soybean glycine max and alfalfa medicago sativa comparison of the isotope dilution and difference methods



Field Crops Research 9(5): 333-346



Measurement of N2-fixation by either the isotope dilution technique (IDT) or difference method (DM) involves comparison of a N2-fixing (or test) crop with a non-N2-fixing control. Non-nodulating soybean and ineffectively nodulating alfalfa were compared as controls for the IDT and DM with their normal, effectively nodulated counterparts in field experiments on a soil (Typic Hapludoll) with high and low available N. Dry matter production and distribution, and partitioning of total N and 15N in the N2-fixing and non-fixing counterparts of each species were investigated. The agreement and precision of the IDT and DM using whole plant compared with shoot samples were determined. The N2-fixing and non-fixing isolines of soybean and the 2 populations of alfalfa were similar in dry matter, total N and 15N partitioning in the plant and individual organs when both species were grown at high available soil N. Under lower available soil N, differences in dry matter, total N and 15N partitioning occurred between the roots and seeds of the soybean isolines, but not between the organs of the alfalfa populations. Values of N2-fixation measured on shoots or whole plants of each species by IDT and DM were not significantly different, suggesting that inclusion of roots and nodules is not necessary for accurate estimation of N2-fixation. The agreement between whole plant and shoot sampling data suggests that the differential partitioning of 15N among organs of the soybean isolines was of no importance to measurement of N2-fixation by IDT at individual harvests or over the entire season. The non-N2-fixing soybean isoline and alfalfa population used were suitable controls for the IDT or DM. The DM will probably underestimate N2-fixation compared to the IDT and will also be less precise.

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