Growth and nitrogen fixation were followed during the life cycle of Setaria italica (foxtail millet) inoculated with Azospirillum brasilense in controlled-environment growth chambers. The plants were fertilized at seeding with a limiting amount of combined nitrogen and maintained with an N-free mineral solution. During maturation of the plants, substantial nitrogenase activity, measured by acetylene reduction, developed in the rhizosphere, with total fixation estimated to be equivalent to 20% of the N in the inoculated plants. The peak of this activity coincided with depletion of soluble nitrogen from the system, which in turn was reflected by a sharp decrease in the nitrate reductase activity of the leaves. A. brasilense was found in association with the root populations at 8 × 107 cells per gram of dry weight. An increase in shoot growth occurred at this time, but no significant increase in total plant nitrogen could be demonstrated. 15N2 enrichment experiments confirmed that fixation was occurring, but only about 5% of the nitrogen fixed by A. brasilense was incorporated into the plants within 3 weeks. There was thus no evidence of direct bacterium-to-plant transport of fixed nitrogen, but rather a slow transfer suggesting the gradual death of bacteria and subsequent mineralization of their nitrogen, at least under growth-room conditions
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