On the efficiency of legume supernodulating mutants

Authors

  • K. Novák

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic
      Dr K. Novák, Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Vídeňská l083, 142 20 Prague 4, Czech Republic.
      Email: novak@biomed.cas.cz
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Dr K. Novák, Institute of Microbiology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Vídeňská l083, 142 20 Prague 4, Czech Republic.
Email: novak@biomed.cas.cz

Abstract

The supernodulating mutants of legumes lack the internal regulation of the number of symbiotic root nodules that harbour N2-fixing nodule bacteria. On one hand, these mutants represent an efficient tool for dramatic increase in the degree of rhizobial symbiosis development. The trait of released nodulation is often associated with the desirable resistance of nodule initiation and functioning to the inhibition by ambient nitrate. On the other hand, the more intense and stable atmospheric nitrogen fixation of supernodulated plants is devalued by plant growth depression that results from the disproportion between the photosynthetic capacity of the shoot and the catabolic demands of symbiotic nodules. The deleterious effects of excessive nodulation can be neutralised or alleviated by a breeding strategy aimed at creating an ideotype of N2-fixing legume. The growth depression can be diminished by the reduction in the nodule number typical for supernodulators, that is, 6–10-fold of the wild type, to the level found permissive for the particular crop. This shift should be accompanied with breeding aimed at the increased photosynthetic capacity of the shoot. Forage varieties of legumes represent a reserve of high photosynthetic and shoot growth capacity, thanks to a long-term breeding history for green biomass accumulation. Moreover, the deleterious effects of supernodulation are less perceived after introgression into the background of forage varieties in view of different criteria in their evaluation, such as nitrogen accumulation and biomass production per crop area unit. The growth of supernodulators can be further corrected by breeding for auxiliary traits such as long-vine shoot architecture, a longer vegetation period and late flowering. The same strategy is applicable to the compensation for inherent pleiotropic changes in plant development, which are often associated with primarily symbiotic mutations. Supporting evidence for the efficiency of the described approach has already been reported.

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