Roley, S. S., D. S. Duncan, D. Liang, A. Garoutte, R. D. Jackson, J. M. Tiedje, and G. P. Robertson. 2018. Associative nitrogen fixation (ANF) in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) across a nitrogen input gradient. PLoS ONE 13:e0197320.
Associative N fixation (ANF), the process by which dinitrogen gas is converted to ammonia by bacteria in casual association with plants, has not been well-studied in temperate ecosystems. We examined the ANF potential of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), a North American prairie grass whose productivity is often unresponsive to N fertilizer addition, via separate short-term 15N2 incubations of rhizosphere soils and excised roots four times during the growing season. Measurements occurred along N fertilization gradients at two sites with contrasting soil fertility (Wisconsin, USA Mollisols and Michigan, USA Alfisols). In general, we found that ANF potentials declined with long-term N addition, corresponding with increased soil N availability. Although we hypothesized that ANF potential would track plant N demand through the growing season, the highest root fixation rates occurred after plants senesced, suggesting that root diazotrophs exploit carbon © released during senescence, as C is translocated from aboveground tissues to roots for wintertime storage. Measured ANF potentials, coupled with mass balance calculations, suggest that ANF appears to be an important source of N to unfertilized switchgrass, and, by extension, to temperate grasslands in general.
Data URL: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.60bn81v
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