The effects of salinity and sodicity upon nodulation and nitrogen fixation in chickpea (Cicer arietinum)

D L N Rao, K E Giller, A R Yeo, T J Flowers
Annals of Botany 2002, 89 (5): 563-70
Production of grain legumes is severely reduced in salt-affected soils because their ability to form and maintain nitrogen-fixing nodules is impaired by both salinity and sodicity (alkalinity). Genotypes of chickpea, Cicer arietinum, with high nodulation capacity under stress were identified by field screening in a sodic soil in India and subsequently evaluated quantitatively for nitrogen fixation in a glasshouse study in a saline but neutral soil in the UK. In the field, pH 8.9 was the critical upper limit for most genotypes studied but genotypes with high nodulation outperformed all others at pH 9.0-9.2. The threshold limit of soil salinity for shoot growth was at ECe 3 dS m(-1), except for the high-nodulation selection for which it was ECe 6. Nodulation was reduced in all genotypes at salinities above 3 dS m(-1) but to a lesser extent in the high-nodulation selection, which proved inherently superior under both non-saline and stress conditions. Nitrogen fixation was also much more tolerant of salinity in this selection than in the other genotypes studied. The results show that chickpea genotypes tolerant of salt-affected soil have better nodulation and support higher rates of symbiotic nitrogen fixation than sensitive genotypes.

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