Fields with no recent legume cultivation have sufficient nitrogen-fixing rhizobia for crops of faba bean (Vicia faba L.)



Maluk M, Ferrando-Molina F, Lopez del Egido L, Langarica-Fuentes A, Gebre Yohannes G, Young MW, Martin P, Gantlett R, Kenicer G, Hawes C, Begg GS, Quilliam RS, Squire GR, Young JPW, Iannetta PPM & James EK (2022) Fields with no recent legume cultivation have sufficient nitrogen-fixing rhizobia for crops of faba bean (Vicia faba L.). Plant and Soil, 472 (1-2), pp. 345-368.

Purpose (1) To assess the biological N fixation (BNF) potential of varieties of faba bean (Vicia faba L.) cropped with or without compost in an experimental field-scale rotation with no recent history of legumes, (2) to enumerate soil populations of Rhizobium leguminosarum sv. viciae (Rlv), and to genetically characterize the nodulating Rlv strains, (3) compare BNF with other sites in Britain. Methods BNF was evaluated from 2012–2015 using 15N natural abundance. Treatments were either PK fertilizer or compost. Soil rhizobial populations were determined using qPCR, the symbiotic rhizobia genotyped (16S rRNA, nodA and nodD genes), and their BNF capacity assessed ex situ. The reliance of legumes on BNF at other British sites was estimated in a single season, and their nodulating symbionts examined. Results Faba bean obtained most of its N through BNF (>80%) regardless of variety or year. N-accumulation by cvs Babylon and Boxer increased with compost treatment in 2014/2015. Rhizobial populations were c. 105-106 Rlv cells g-1 soil regardless of field or treatment. 157 Rlv microsymbionts grouped into two large nodAD clades; one mainly from V. faba, and the other from various legumes. All isolates nodulated, and some performed better than commercial inoculant strains. Conclusions Faba bean can provide most of its nitrogen through BNF and leave economically valuable residual N for subsequent crops. Recent legume cropping in northern Europe is not essential for effective nodulation: rhizobia may persist in a range of farmland locations. Nevertheless, there is the potential to apply elite rhizobial strains as inoculants in some soils.

Vicia faba L.; Green waste compost; 15N natural abundance; Nitrogen fixation; Rhizobium; qPCR; nodD

Plant and Soil: Volume 472, Issue 1-2

FundersScottish Government
Publication date31/03/2022
Publication date online31/01/2022
Date accepted by journal24/11/2021

People (1)


Professor Richard Quilliam
Professor Richard Quilliam

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Files (1)

Research programmes

Research centres/groups