Journal Article

Responses of plant growth rate to nitrogen supply: a comparison of relative addition and N interruption treatments

Robin L. Walker, Ian G. Burns and Jeff Moorby

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Volume 52, issue 355, pages 309-317
Published in print February 2001 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online February 2001 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jexbot/52.355.309
Responses of plant growth rate to nitrogen supply: a comparison of relative addition and N interruption treatments

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This paper investigates the effects of uptake of nitrate and the availability of internal N reserves on growth rate in times of restricted supply, and examines the extent to which the response is mediated by the different pools of N (nitrate N, organic N and total N) in the plant. Hydroponic experiments were carried out with young lettuce plants (Lactuca sativa L.) to compare responses to either an interruption in external N supply or the imposition of different relative N addition rate (RAR) treatments. The resulting relationships between whole plant relative growth rate (RGR) and N concentration varied between linear and curvilinear (or possibly bi‐linear) forms depending on the treatment conditions. The relationship was curvilinear when the external N supply was interrupted, but linear when N was supplied by either RAR methods or as a supra‐optimal external N supply. These differences resulted from the ability of the plant to use external sources of N more readily than their internal N reserves. These results show that when sub‐optimal sources of external N were available, RGR was maintained at a rate which was dependent on the rate of nitrate uptake by the roots. Newly acquired N was channelled directly to the sites of highest demand, where it was assimilated rapidly. As a result, nitrate only tended to accumulate in plant tissues when its supply was essentially adequate. By comparison, plants forced to rely solely on their internal reserves were never able to mobilize and redistribute N between tissues quickly enough to prevent reductions in growth rate as their tissue N reserves declined. Evidence is presented to show that the rate of remobilization of N depends on the size and type of the N pools within the plant, and that changes in their rates of remobilization and/or transfer between pools are the main factors influencing the form of the relationship between RGR and N concentration.

Keywords: Lettuce; N uptake; N reserves; nitrate N; organic N; relative addition rate; relative growth rate.

Journal Article.  5745 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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