Nitrogen fixation by Alnus incana and nitrogen transfer from A. incana to Pinus sylvestris influenced by macronutrients and ectomycorrhiza



    1. Department of Plant Physiology, Umea University, S-901 87 Umea, Sweden
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      Section of Forest Soils, Department of Forest Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, S-901 83, Umeå, Sweden


    1. Department of Plant Physiology, Umea University, S-901 87 Umea, Sweden
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    • Department of Crop Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 4097, S-904 03 Umeå, Sweden.


The aims of this study were to evaluate the effect of macronutrients on nitrogen fixation in mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal grey alder (Alnus incana (L.) Moench), and to evaluate the effect of ectomycorrhizal mycelium on the transfer of symbolically fixed nitrogen from grey alder to Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L). One alder and one pine were grown together in pots with root systems separated by a 20μm mesh nylon filter which allowed hyphae but not roots to penetrate. Half the plants of both species were inoculated with Paxillus involutus (Ft.) Ft. and all alders were inoculated with Frankia. Nutrient solutions were added with macronutrient (N, K, P, Ca, Mg and S) concentrations varied according to a two-level fractional factorial design. The plants were harvested after two growing periods in a growth chamber. Nitrogen fixation by alder and transfer of symbiotically fixed N from alder to pine was measured by 15N-dilution. Fixed N (mg) correlated with nodule biomass in both mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal alders. On average, specific nodule activity over the two periods was 510 mg N fixed R' nodule d. wt. This was not affected by mycorrhizal infection or by the different nutrient treatments. By contrast there was a strong nutrient effect on the proportion of N derived from fixation. These results indicate that the regulation of nitrogen fixation was via nodule growth rather than via nodule specific activity. Nitrogen had a strong negative effect and P a positive effect on the percentage of N derived from fixation (%Ndfa). However, the effect of N depended on the level of P. This N × P interaction resulted in a %Ndfa when N was high, of 5-10%, at low P and 45–48%, at high P. The highest value of 90% Ndfa was found at the combination of low N and high P. Potassium had a small but statistically significant effect on the %Ndfa but Ca, Mg and S had no significant effects. No mycorrhizal effect was found on the %Ndfa in alder. By contrast, the %Ndfa and biomass were lower in mycorrhizal than in non-mycorrhizal alders. The proportion of fixed N in pine, transferred from alder, was greatest (9%) when the pine was nitrogen starved and mycorrhizal and the alder was fixing maximally (low N and high P). However, the amount of fixed N transferred to pine was not statistically different from zero.