It is now recognized that plants take up N from the soil in three forms: nitrate, ammonium, and amino acids (dissolved organic N). Although scientific evidence on plant uptake of amino acids has existed in the last few decades, it is only recently that the contribution of amino acids to plant nutrition has been recognized (see Warren 2009 and literatures cited). So the traditional view that organic N has to be mineralized first into nitrate and ammonium in order to be available to the plant is not anymore valid.
Different plant species vary in their preference for N forms. For instance, early successional plant species are known to have a higher capacity for nitrate uptake than late successional species. Uptake of N in the form of ammonium and amino acids is thus more important for the latter species. In a recent study to test the hypothesis that substrate concentration affects plant preference for N forms,
Warren CR. 2009. Does nitrogen concentration affect relative uptake rates of nitrate, ammonium, and glycine? J. Plant Nutr. Soil Sci. 172: 224-229.