Journal Article

Consequences of C<sub>4</sub> photosynthesis for the partitioning of growth: a test using C<sub>3</sub> and C<sub>4</sub> subspecies of <i>Alloteropsis semialata</i> under nitrogen-limitation

Brad S. Ripley, Trevor I. Abraham and Colin P. Osborne

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Published on behalf of Society for Experimental Biology

Volume 59, issue 7, pages 1705-1714
Published in print May 2008 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online February 2008 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jxb/erm210
Consequences of C4 photosynthesis for the partitioning of growth: a test using C3 and C4 subspecies of Alloteropsis semialata under nitrogen-limitation

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C4 plants dominate the world's subtropical grasslands, but investigations of their ecology typically focus on climatic variation, ignoring correlated changes in soil nutrient concentration. The hypothesis that higher photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency (PNUE) in C4 than in C3 species allows greater flexibility in the partitioning of growth, especially under nutrient-deficient conditions, is tested here. Our experiment applied three levels of N supply to the subtropical grass Alloteropsis semialata, a unique model system with C3 and C4 subspecies. Photosynthesis was significantly higher for the same investment of leaf N in the C4 than C3 subspecies, and was unaffected by N treatments. The C4 plants produced more biomass than the C3 plants at high N levels, diverting a greater fraction of growth into inflorescences and corms, but less into roots and leaves. However, N-limitation of biomass production caused size-dependent shifts in the partitioning of growth. Root production was higher in small than large plants, and associated with decreasing leaf biomass in the C3, and inflorescence production in the C4 plants. Higher PNUE in the C4 than C3 subspecies was therefore linked with greater investment in sexual reproduction and storage, and the avoidance of N-limitations on leaf growth, suggesting advantages of the C4 pathway in disturbed and infertile ecosystems.

Keywords: Alloteropsis semialata; biomass partitioning; C4 photosynthesis; nitrogen-limitation; photosynthetic nitrogen use efficiency

Journal Article.  5410 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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