Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Solute flows from Hordeum vulgare to the hemiparasite Rhinanthus minor and the influence of infection on host and parasite nutrient relations

Fan Jiang A , W. Dieter Jeschke A and Wolfram Hartung A B
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- Author Affiliations

A Julius von Sachs Institut für Biowissenschaften der Universität, Lehrstuhl Botanik I, Julius von Sachs Platz 2, D 97082 Würzburg, Germany.

B Corresponding author; email:

Functional Plant Biology 31(6) 633-643
Submitted: 26 November 2003  Accepted: 2 March 2004   Published: 23 June 2004


Using the facultative root hemiparasite Rhinanthus minor and Hordeum vulgare L. as a host, the flows and partitioning of mineral nutrients within the host, the parasite and between host and parasite have been studied during the study period 41–54 d after planting, i.e approximately 30–43 d after successful attachment of the parasite to the host. In parasitising Rhinanthus shoot growth was 12-fold, but root growth only 2-fold increased compared to non-parasitising plants. Conversely, in the Hordeum host, shoot dry matter growth was clearly reduced, by 33% in leaf laminae and by 52% in leaf sheaths, whereas root growth was only slightly reduced as a consequence of parasitism. Growth-dependent increments of total nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) and of potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) in parasitising Rhinanthus shoot were strongly increased, particularly increments of total N and P, which were 18 and 42 times, respectively, higher than in solitary Rhinanthus. However, increments of the above mineral nutrients in leaf sheaths of parasitised Hordeum vulgare were more strongly decreased than in leaf laminae in response to parasitic attack. Estimation of the flows of nutrients revealed that Rhinanthus withdrew from the host xylem sap about the same percentage of each nutrients: 18% of total N, 22% of P and 20% of K. Within the host almost all net flows of nutrient ions were decreased due to parasitism, but retranslocation from shoot to root was somewhat increased for all nutrients. Quantitative information is provided to show that the substantially increased growth in the shoot of attached Rhinanthus and the observed decrease in Hordeum shoot growth after infection were related to strongly elevated supply of nitrogen and phosphorus in the parasite and to incipient deficiency of these nutrients in the parasitised host. The flows of nutrients between host and parasite are discussed in terms of low selectivity of nutrient abstraction from the host xylem by the hemiparasite Rhinanthus minor.

Keywords: mineral nutrients, modelling, nitrogen, parasite angiosperm, phosphorus, Rhinanthus minor, solute flows.


We thank Dr Wendy Seel and Duncan Cameron (University of Aberdeen, UK) for stimulating discussion and for helpful advice, and an anonymous referee for constructive critical comments and to Dr Hermann Heilmeier for help the statistical analysis. We also thank Mrs. Bianca Röger, Eva Wirth and Elfriede Reisberg for expert technical help and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for generous financial support (SFB 567, TPA6).


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