Nitrogen fixation and gas exchange response to evaporative demand in soybean



Atmospheric vapor pressure deficit (VPD) is increasing in many regions and has a large impact on plant productivity. A VPD increase leads to raising transpiration rate (TR) and soil-water demand, risking productivity penalties. Like water, nitrogen is critical to productivity, but the effect of VPD on legume nitrogen fixation is undocumented. To address this, we developed a portable system for quantifying nitrogen fixation noninvasively and at a high temporal resolution by tracking the rate of hydrogen gas evolution by root nodules. Combining field and controlled-environment experiments where we measured leaf gas exchange and H2 production by nodules, we confirmed the ability of the system to track nitrogen-fixation dynamics. Raising VPD from 0.5 to 3 kPa within ~2.5 hrs under well-watered conditions increased nitrogen fixation by up to 25% in addition to TR, consistent with the hypothesis that raising VPD in that range might have alleviated nitrogenase feedback inhibition. Genotypic differences were found in this response, indicating a potential for breeding. Our study provides evidence for an important environmental effect on nitrogen fixation that is not taken into account in current crop and vegetation models, pointing to untapped avenues for better understanding climate change effects on legumes and nitrogen cycling.
Date made availableApr 19 2023

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