Contribution of nitrogen fixation to first year Miscanthus × giganteus

Daniel P. Keymer, Angela D. Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many characteristics make Miscanthus × giganteus an appealing bioenergy feedstock in temperate North America, but the degree to which this plant species interacts with nitrogen-fixing bacteria remains understudied. Demonstration of associative nitrogen fixation in Miscanthus would support management with minimal fertilizer inputs that is demanded of long-term biofuel sustainability. As a first step, we investigate the role of biological nitrogen fixation in nutrition of immature Miscanthus and temporal dynamics of plant-associated nitrogen fixers. The contribution of biological nitrogen fixation to plant nitrogen acquisition in first year Miscanthus × giganteus was estimated using a yield-dependent 15N isotope dilution model. Temporal changes in plant-associated diazotroph relative abundance and community composition were analyzed with quantitative PCR and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism of the nifH gene in rhizome and rhizosphere DNA extracts. We estimate 16% of new plant nitrogen was derived by nitrogen fixation during the growing season, despite non-limiting soil nitrogen. Diazotroph communities from rhizome and rhizosphere changed with plant development and endophytic nitrogen fixers had significantly higher relative abundance and altered community composition at sampling dates in July and August. This study provides evidence for a small, but measurable, benefit of associative nitrogen fixation to first year Miscanthus × giganteus that underscores the potential and need for selection of breeding lines that maximize this trait.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-586
Number of pages10
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Diazotroph
  • Endophyte
  • Miscanthus
  • Rhizosphere
  • Yield-dependent model
  • nifH abundance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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