Responses of legumes to rhizobia and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi: A meta-analysis of potential photosynthate limitation of symbioses

Kaschuk, G.; Leffelaar, P.A.; Giller, K.E.; Alberton, O.; Hungria, M.; Kuyper, T.W.


Legumes are prized for their seed protein and lipid mass fractions. Since legumes spend up to 4–16% of photosynthesis on each of the rhizobial and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal symbioses, it might be expected that positive responses in yield due to rhizobial and AM symbioses are accompanied by decreases in seed protein and lipid mass fractions due to a photosynthate (C) limitation. We performed a meta-analysis of 348 data points from published studies with 12 legume species to test whether yield, harvest index, and seed protein and lipid mass fractions are affected by symbioses. There was a significant increase in yield due to rhizobial inoculation (16% in the field; 59% in pot experiments). There were no responses of yield to AM fungi and rhizobial + AM fungi inoculations in the field (presumably because an AM fungi-free control cannot be ensured), but significant responses in pots (45% with AM fungi; 44% with rhizobial + AM fungi). Rhizobial inoculation improved seed protein mass fraction by 7% in the field; AM fungi increased this parameter by 14% in pots. There were no discernable effects of symbioses on seed lipid mass fraction. Rhizobial symbioses in the field increased harvest index (+5%), but AM fungi did not affect harvest index. In conclusion, increases in yield due to symbioses also resulted in increases in seed protein and constant lipid mass fractions, indicating that legumes are not C-limited under symbiotic conditions