Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Isotopic Discriminations During the Accumulation of Nitrogen by Soybeans

FJ Bergersen, MB Peoples and GL Turner

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 15(3) 407 - 420
Published: 1988


Soybeans were grown in a glasshouse in sand-vermiculite medium supplied daily with a mineral nutrient solution essentially free of combined N or containing 5 mM nitrate of known 15N abundance. The natural abundance of 15N in parts of plants and in nitrogen remaining in the medium was determined from 15 days after planting until fruiting.

In nodulated plants completely dependent on N2 fixation for growth, the δ15N of plant nitrogen was uniformly negative at 56 days (overall mean: -0.90± 0.17) after adjustment for the effect of seed nitrogen. The δ15N of root nodules increased with time (max. 9.6‰), as that of shoots declined (min. - 1.3 ‰). The δ15N of every mainstem trifoliolate leaf and of the first (unifoliolate) leaf declined from initially positive values (0.5 to 2 ‰) to about - 2‰ with similar time courses, irrespective of the time of initiation. There were no significant losses of N from the plants during growth. There were differences between the δ15N of the total N of root-bleeding xylem sap and of sap extracted by vacuum treatment of stems. These were due to differences between the proportions of ureide-N and amino-N and between the δ15N values of these components.

When nodulated plants were supplied daily with 5 mM nitrate (δ15N = 7.68‰) between 21 and 35 days, N2 fixation was reduced to 63% of N assimilated but growth and accumulation of nitrogen were affected little. Following removal of nitrate, there were changes in growth which led to enhanced nodulation and N2 fixation. The δ15N of the total N of trifoliolate leaves which were initiated or expanded before or during the period of nitrate treatment remained positive; those expanded or initiated after the treatment became negative in δ15N, as in the corresponding leaves of untreated nodulated plants. The δ15N of nodules was unaffected by the nitrate treatment. In plants (non-nod. Clark '63) supplied continuously with nitrate, the δ15N of the total N of entire plants rose quickly from values for seeds, but to values significantly higher than in the nitrate.

These results are discussed in relation to the effects on the use of 15N natural abundance data for estimating utilisation of atmospheric N2 by nodulated plants.

© CSIRO 1988

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