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Differences in photosynthetic behaviour and leaf senescence of soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merrill) dependent on N2 fixation or nitrate supply


  • Editor J. Cullimore

G. Kaschuk
Plant Production Systems Group
Wageningen University
PO Box 430
6700 AK Wageningen
The Netherlands


Biological N2 fixation can fulfil the N demand of legumes but may cost as much as 14% of current photosynthate. This photosynthate (C) sink strength would result in loss of productivity if rates of photosynthesis did not increase to compensate for the costs. We measured rates of leaf photosynthesis, concentrations of N, ureides and protein in leaves of two soybean cultivars (Glycine max [L.] Merrill) differing in potential shoot biomass production, either associated with Bradyrhizobium japonicum strains, or amended with nitrate. Our results show that the C costs of biological N2 fixation can be compensated by increased photosynthesis. Nodulated plants shifted N metabolism towards ureide accumulation at the start of the reproductive stage, at which time leaf N concentration of nodulated plants was greater than that of N-fertilized plants. The C sink strength of N2 fixation increased photosynthetic N use efficiency at the beginning of plant development. At later stages, although average protein concentrations were similar between the groups of plants, maximum leaf protein of nodulated plants occurred a few days later than in N-fertilized plants. The chlorophyll content of nodulated plants remained high until the pod-filling stage, whereas the chlorophyll content of N-fertilized plants started to decrease as early as the flowering stage. These results suggest that, due to higher C sink strength and efficient N2 fixation, nodulated plants achieve higher rates of photosynthesis and have delayed leaf senescence.