Symbiotic nitrogen fixation and establishment of six Montana native legumes species
Metcalf, Sarah Jean
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Legume species have been known to increase soil N content and are incorporated into land restoration seed mixes in hopes of improving degraded soils and plant communities. The goals of this project were to determine effects of soil type, soil moisture, inocula and fungicide treatments on legume establishment, N2 fixation capacity and plant biomass for six individual native legume species. In potted greenhouse studies, legumes were grown in five field soils to verify nodulation without inocula. In a second phase, plant biomass was measured in two soils at two moisture contents (60 and 80% of field capacity). The efficacies of Rhizobia inocula and fungicide treatments were also tested. The greenhouse studies were used to supplement data gathered at three field sites around Montana. Native soils contained Rhizobia that were specific to many of the plant species tested and induced nodulation. Soil moisture content, inoculation and fungicide treatments had less effect on nodulation and biomass than the soil characteristics. Fungicide treatments benefited establishment of Lupinus argenteus, and had mixed effects on Astragalus canadensis and Dalea candida. Benefits were dependent on soil nutrient content, microbial biota and other characteristics. Shoot biomass at each field site also varied significantly; in general A. canadensis had the highest nodulation and biomass, while Dalea purpurea and D. candida typically had the lowest biomasses and nodulation. This research should assist land managers in selecting species to suit a wide variety of ecological conditions and land restoration scenarios.