Waterlogging tolerance, tissue nitrogen and oxygen transport in the forage legume Melilotus siculus: A comparison of nodulated and nitrate-fed plants

Dennis Konnerup, Guillermo Toro, Ole Pedersen, Timothy David Colmer

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims Soil waterlogging adversely impacts most plants. Melilotus siculus is a waterlogging-tolerant annual forage legume, but data were lacking for the effects of root-zone hypoxia on nodulated plants reliant on N2 fixation. The aim was to compare the waterlogging tolerance and physiology of M. siculus reliant on N2 fixation or with access to NO3 -. Methods A factorial experiment imposed treatments of water level (drained or waterlogged), rhizobia (nil or inoculated) and mineral N supply (nil or 11 mm NO3 -) for 21 d on plants in pots of vermiculite in a glasshouse. Nodulation, shoot and root growth and tissue N were determined. Porosity (gas volume per unit tissue volume) and respiration rates of root tissues and nodules, and O2 microelectrode profiling across nodules, were measured in a second experiment. Key Results Plants inoculated with the appropriate rhizobia, Ensifer (syn. Sinorhizobium) medicae, formed nodules. Nodulated plants grew as well as plants fed NO3 -, both in drained and waterlogged conditions. The growth and total N content of nodulated plants (without any NO3 - supplied) indicated N2 fixation. Respiration rates (mass basis) were highest in nodules and root tips and lowest in basal root tissues. Secondary aerenchyma (phellem) formed along basal root parts and a thin layer of this porous tissue also covered nodules, which together enhanced gas-phase diffusion of O2 to the nodules; O2 was below detection within the infected zone of the nodule interior. Conclusions Melilotus siculus reliant on N2 fixation grew well both in drained and waterlogged conditions, and had similar tissue N concentrations. In waterlogged conditions the relatively high respiration rates of nodules must rely on O2 movement via the aerenchymatous phellem in hypocotyl, roots and the outer tissue layers of nodules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-709
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2018


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