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Acetylene reduction (nitrogen fixation) associated with corn inoculated with Spirillum.

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  • Research Article


Sorghum and corn breeding lines were grown in soil in field and greenhouse experiments with and without an inoculum of N2-fixing in Spirillum strains from Brazil. Estimated rates of N2 fixation associated with field-grown corn and sorghum plants were less than 4 g of N2/ha per day. The mean estimated N2-fixation rates determined on segments of roots from corn inoculated with Spirillum and grown in the greenhouse at 24 to 27 degrees C were 15 g of N2/ha per day (16 inbreds), 25 g of N2/ha per day (six hybrids), and 165 g of N2/ha per day for one hybird which was heavily inoculated. The corresponding mean rates determined from measurements of in situ cultures of the same series of corn plants (i.e., 16 inbreds, six hybrids, and one heavily inoculated hybrid) were 0.4, 2.3, and 1.1 g of N2/ha per day, respectively. Lower rates of C2H2 reduction were associated with control corn cultures which had been treated with autoclaved Spirillum than with cultures inoculated with live Spirillum. No C2H2 reduction was detected in plant cultures treated with ammonium nitrate. Numbers of nitrogen-fixing bacteria on excised roots of corn plants increased an average of about 30-fold during an overnight preincubation period, and as a result acetylene reduction assays of root samples after preincubation failed to serve as a valid basis for estimating N2 fixation by corn in pot cultures. Plants grown without added nitrogen either with or without inoculum exhibited severe symptoms of nitrogen deficiency and in most cases produced significantly less dry weight than those supplied with fixed nitrogen. Although substantial rates of C2H2 reduction by excised corn roots were observed after preincubation under limited oxygen, the yield and nitrogen content of inoculated plants and the C2H2-reduction rates by inoculated pot cultures of corn, in situ, provided no evidence of appreciable N2 fixation.

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