Field and glasshouse experiments confirmed the occurrence of boron (B) deficiency in subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) pasture in eastern Victoria. Diminished productivity was linked to the small-seededness of clover and the poor effectiveness of clover root-nodule bacteria (rhizobia, Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii). Productivity, especially of clover and clover seed, increased following applications of up to 6 kg B ha–1 (P < 0.001). The response was delayed, occurring several years after the initial application of B, unless the land was resown with fresh clover seed inoculated with an effective strain of rhizobia.
B deficiency in the nodulated legume induced conditions within the plant and or its rhizobia that led to impaired nitrogen (N2) fixation. Glasshouse research indicated that populations of soil-borne rhizobia taken from B-deficient soils were poorly effective in N2 fixation and that rhizobia from soils growing subterranean clover cv. Leura were significantly less effective (P < 0.05) than rhizobia from a soil growing cv. Mt Barker.
Additionally, subterranean clover seed generated in B-deficient soils was at least one-third smaller than the seed of commercial seed but responded to inoculation with effective rhizobia. This indicated that any symbiotic malfunction of clover from B-deficient soils was not due to an inability to respond to nitrogen per se. On the other hand, cv. Leura from B-deficient soils fixed significantly less N2 than commercial cv. Leura when each was inoculated with rhizobia from B-deficient soils.