Growth and efficiency of root respiration were investigated in Pisum sativum L. cv. Alaska and cv. Rondo. Plants were grown in culture solutions, either in symbiosis with Rhizobium leguminosanm, or with an abundant supply of nitrate or ammonium and completely lacking nodules. In comparison with plants utilizing nitrate or ammonium, Ni-fixing plants showed lower rates of dry matter and nitrogen accumulation, as well as lower rates of total and cytochrome-mediated root respiration. Rates of shoot dry matter accumulation and root respiration in plants utilizing ammonium were lower than in plants utilizing nitrate. The efficiency of root respiration was high in N2-fixing plants, as indicated by a low activity of the SHAM-sensitive, alternative, non-phosphorylating pathway. In nitrate and ammonium grown plants of cv. Alaska, the efficiency of root respiration was about the same, and in both cases lower than in N2-fixing plants. The efficiency of root respiration in non-symbiotically grown pea plants was generally higher than in many non-legumes. Comparison of the ATP costs of synthesis of root dry matter for different N-sources was complicated by large differences in relative growth rate of the root and in shoot to root ratio between N-treatments. A quantitative correction of the ATP production during synthesis of root dry matter for differences in shoot to root ratio and root maintenance respiration has been made. It is concluded that ATP costs of root dry matter production are highest in the case of N2-fixing plants. In plants utilizing ammonium, ATP costs of synthesis of root dry matter were slightly lower than in plants utilizing nitrate. The physiological significance of the alternative pathway in root metabolism is discussed in relation to the assimilation of different sources of nitrogen.