Genetic variability in nodulation and root growth affects nitrogen fixation and accumulation in pea

  • Bourion V
  • Laguerre G
  • Depret G
 et al. 
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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Legume nitrogen is derived from two different sources, symbiotically fixed atmospheric N(2) and soil N. The effect of genetic variability of root and nodule establishment on N acquisition and seed protein yield was investigated under field conditions in pea (Pisum sativum). In addition, these parameters were related to the variability in preference for rhizobial genotypes. METHODS: Five different spring pea lines (two hypernodulating mutants and three cultivars), previously identified in artificial conditions as contrasted for both root and nodule development, were characterized under field conditions. Root and nodule establishment was examined from the four-leaf stage up to the beginning of seed filling and was related to the patterns of shoot dry matter and nitrogen accumulation. The genetic structure of rhizobial populations associated with the pea lines was obtained by analysis of nodule samples. The fraction of nitrogen derived from symbiotic fixation was estimated at the beginning of seed filling and at physiological maturity, when seed protein content and yield were determined. KEY RESULTS: The hypernodulating mutants established nodules earlier and maintained them longer than was the case for the three cultivars, whereas their root development and nitrogen accumulation were lower. The seed protein yield was higher in 'Athos' and 'Austin', the two cultivars with increased root development, consistent with their higher N absorption during seed filling. CONCLUSION: The hypernodulating mutants did not accumulate more nitrogen, probably due to the C cost for nodulation being higher than for root development. Enhancing exogenous nitrogen supply at the end of the growth cycle, by increasing the potential for root N uptake from soil, seems a good option for improving pea seed filling.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Hypernodulating mutants
  • Mineral nitrogen absorption
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Nodules
  • Pisum sativum
  • Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viciae
  • Roots
  • Seed protein content

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  • Virginie Bourion

  • Gisele Laguerre

  • Geraldine Depret

  • Anne Sophie Voisin

  • Christophe Salon

  • Gerard Duc

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