Drought causes considerable reduction of legume productivity and significantly threatens the food security, and this situation is expected to be aggravated due to climate change. In soybean and common bean, water resource capturing through plant root architectural plasticity and the role of symbiotic nitrogen fixation have not been investigated in greater detail yet. This study was therefore conducted to identify and apply useful morphological and physiological performance markers (traits) for selection of drought-tolerant common bean and soybean cultivars under both controlled phytotron and field conditions that might be applicable as markers in future legume breeding programs. In soybean, traits related to above ground performance, such as photosynthesis, biomasses, and stomatal conductance, were related to parameters for nitrogen acquisition in nodules. The ability to maintain vigorous shoot growth under drought-induced nitrogen limitation was identified as an important trait that can be used to select for improved drought tolerance. Further, experiments carried out growing different common bean inbred lines under controlled phytotron conditions revealed the importance of growth and gas exchange parameters as well as nitrogen fixing ability as performance markers to select superior performing bean lines for growth under drought. As a further result, the strong association of symbiotic nitrogen fixation with CO2 assimilation and stomatal conductance was also ascertained. In field experiments the effective use of water through enhanced lateral root development and maintaining the water status of the plant was found to be crucial for enhanced productivity under drought, with root morphology traits (root length, area and volume) as well as root architectural traits (first whorl angle, basal root number and adventitious root branching density) significantly related to seed yield. Measurement of these traits might be added to future bean varietal improvement programs. Further, a direct relationship between both water use efficiency (WUE) estimated using carbon isotope discrimination (CID) and nitrogen fixation (15N abundance) with root morphological and architectural traits (root length, area and volume, basal root number, 1st as well as 2nd whorl angles) was identified. CID (WUE) and 15N abundance (SNF ability) had a direct relationship with each other and also with productivity traits (seed yield and pod harvest index). Soybean field experiments verified the importance of root system architecture and morphology for providing drought tolerance with root architectural traits, tap and lateral roots (diameter and branching density) and morphological traits (root length, surface area and volume) contributing to better performance under drought. Moreover, the strong association of CID (WUE) with ä15N (SNF), root traits as well as seed yield in soybean exposed to drought was ascertained. Findings suggested that higher performance in CID under drought stress may be due to higher CO2 assimilation and better N2 fixation resulting in better root system architecture and morphology of the drought-tolerant cultivar through maintenance of the water status of the plant for efficient biological activity. Overall the study has generated new knowledge about the use of physiological markers (traits) that can be used widely for legume evaluation under drought suitable for both phytotron and field studies.