Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Nitrogen-fixing symbioses allow legumes to thrive in nitrogen-poor soils at the cost of diverting some photoassimilate to their microsymbionts. Effort is being made to bioengineer nitrogen fixation into nonleguminous crops. This requires a quantitative understanding of its energetic costs and the links between metabolic variations and symbiotic efficiency. A whole-plant metabolic model for soybean (Glycine max) with its associated microsymbiont Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens was developed and applied to predict the cost-benefit of nitrogen fixation with varying soil nitrogen availability. The model predicted a nitrogen-fixation cost of c. 4.13 g C g-1 N, which when implemented into a crop scale model, translated to a grain yield reduction of 27% compared with a non-nodulating plant receiving its nitrogen from the soil. Considering the lower nitrogen content of cereals, the yield cost to a hypothetical N-fixing cereal is predicted to be less than half that of soybean. Soybean growth was predicted to be c. 5% greater when the nodule nitrogen export products were amides versus ureides. This is the first metabolic reconstruction in a tropical crop species that simulates the entire plant and nodule metabolism. Going forward, this model will serve as a tool to investigate carbon use efficiency and key mechanisms within N-fixing symbiosis in a tropical species forming determinate nodules.

Original publication




Journal article


New Phytol

Publication Date



carbon costs, mathematical model, nitrogen fixation, nitrogen metabolism, root nodule, soybean