Soybean nitrogen fixation dynamics in Iowa, USA

Córdova, S. Carolina
Castellano, Michael
Dietzel, Ranae
Licht, Mark
Togliatti, Kaitlin
Martinez-Feria, Rafael
Archontoulis, Sotirios V.
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© 2019 Elsevier B.V.
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The rainfed US Midwestern region has deep, fertile soils and leads the US in soybean [Glycine max, (L.) Merr.] production. Biological nitrogen (N) fixation (BNF) contributes a portion of the soybean N requirement, but variability in BNF is poorly understood and estimates of BNF for this region are rare. We established experiments in Iowa, USA to gain a better understanding of BNF and increase its predictability. We collected in-season BNF measurements accompanied by high temporal resolution soil and plant growth measurements. Across two years, two locations and two planting dates, we found that BNF contributed 23-65% of total aboveground N accumulation in soybean. The BNF rate was maximized at the early seed-filling period and varied from 1 to 3 kg N ha-1day-1. During seed filling period, the rate of BNF was related to crop growth rate (carbon (C) supply) but not to N accumulation by the reproductive organs (N demand). We found that a minimum crop growth rate of 135 kg dry matter ha-1day-1 is required to sustain maximum BNF rates. In contrast to BNF, the soil inorganic N uptake rate was related to seed N demand but not to C supply. Biomass production was the best predictor of total soybean BNF (R2 > 0.83). On average, 0.013 kg N was fixed per kg biomass produced. Across all trials, the N exported via seed was greater than the N imported via BNF, which suggests that Midwest US soybeans may reduce soil organic matter. We concluded that future research efforts should focus on increasing C – rather than N – availability during the seed filling period towards improving both grain yields and environmental sustainability.
This is a manuscript of an article published as Córdova, S. Carolina, Michael J. Castellano, Ranae Dietzel, Mark A. Licht, Kaitlin Togliatti, Rafael Martinez-Feria, and Sotirios V. Archontoulis. "Soybean nitrogen fixation dynamics in Iowa, USA." Field Crops Research 236 (2019): 165-176. doi:10.1016/j.fcr.2019.03.018. Posted with permission. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.