An Illustration of Biological Nitrogen Fixation for Plant Science Students

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011-1100.
  • | 2 Department of Horticulture, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-5611.

A laboratory exercise for illustrating aspects of biological nitrogen fixation (BNP) to students in plant science courses is described. Surface-sterilized seeds of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) and soybean (Glycine max Merill) were sown together in plastic containers filled with a sterile, soilless medium. Containers were assigned randomly to treatments designed to show how inoculation with two strains of rhizobial bacteria and application of nitrate affect root nodulation and plant growth. Results demonstrated that BNF occurs in diverse legumes, that legumes vary in the strains of rhizobia with which they associate, that nodulation is inhibited by nitrate, and that dependency on BNP can reduce growth compared with plants provided nitrate.

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