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

Effects of leaf development and phosphorus supply on the photosynthetic characteristics of perennial legume species with pasture potential: modelling photosynthesis with leaf development

Lalith D. B. Suriyagoda A B C E , Hans Lambers A , Megan H. Ryan A B and Michael Renton A B D

A School of Plant Biology and Institute of Agriculture, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

C Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya 20400, Sri Lanka.

D CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Floreat, WA 6014, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email:

Functional Plant Biology 37(8) 713-725
Submitted: 21 November 2009  Accepted: 1 April 2010   Published: 26 July 2010


Age-dependent changes in leaf photosynthetic characteristics (i.e. parameters of the light response curve (maximum photosynthetic rate (Pmax), quantum yield (Φ) and the convexity parameter (θ)), stomatal conductance (gs) and dark respiration rate (Rd)) of an exotic perennial legume, Medicago sativa L. (lucerne), and two potential pasture legumes native to Australia, Cullen australasicum (Schltdl.) J.W. Grime and Cullen pallidum A. Lee, grown in a glasshouse for 5 months at two phosphorus (P) levels (3 (P3) and 30 (P30) mg P kg–1 dry soil) were tested. Leaf appearance rate and leaf area were lower at P3 than at P30 in all species, with M. sativa being the most sensitive to P3. At any leaf age, photosynthetic characteristics did not differ between P treatments. However, Pmax and gs for all the species and Φ for Cullen species increased until full leaf expansion and then decreased. The convexity parameter, θ, did not change with leaf age, whereas Rd decreased. The estimates of leaf net photosynthetic rate (Pleaf) obtained through simulations at variable Pmax and Φ were lower during early and late leaf developmental stages and at lower light intensities than those obtained when Φ was assumed to be constant (e.g. for a horizontally placed leaf, during the 1500°C days developmental period, 3 and 19% reduction of Pleaf at light intensities of 1500 and 500 µmol m–2 s–1, respectively). Therefore, developmental changes in leaf photosynthetic characteristics should be considered when estimating and simulating Pleaf of these pasture species.

Additional keywords: Australian native legumes, leaf age, light response curve, novel crops.


Angus JF Wilson JH 1976 Photosynthesis of barley and wheat leaves in relation to canopy models. Photosynthetica 10 367 377

Beadle NCW 1966 Soil phosphate and its role in molding segments of the Australian flora and vegetation, with special reference to xeromorphy and sclerophylly. Ecology 47 992 1007

Boedhram N (1998) Seasonal changes of leaf area distribution and light response curves and incorporation of vapor pressure deficit into a canopy photosynthesis model in corn. PhD Thesis, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, USA.

Bouma TJ De Visser R Van Leeuwen PH De Kock MJ Lambers H 1995 The respiratory energy requirements involved in nocturnal carbohydrate export from starch-storing mature source leaves and their contribution to leaf dark respiration. Journal of Experimental Botany 46 1185 1194 doi:10.1093/jxb/46.9.1185

Charles-Edwards DA (1981) ‘The mathematics of photosynthesis and productivity.’ (Academic Press: London)

Chiera J Thomas J Rufty T 2002 Leaf initiation and development in soybean under phosphorus stress. Journal of Experimental Botany 53 473 481 doi:10.1093/jexbot/53.368.473

Cocks PS 2001 Ecology of herbaceous perennial legumes: a review of characteristics that may provide management options for the control of salinity and waterlogging in dryland cropping systems. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 52 137 151 doi:10.1071/AR99170

Constable GA Rawson HM 1980 Effect of leaf position, expansion and age on photosynthesis, transpiration and water use efficiency of cotton. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 7 89 100 doi:10.1071/PP9800089

Cordell D Drangert JO White S 2009 The story of phosphorus: global food security and food for thought. Global Environmental Change 19 292 305 doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2008.10.009

Dear BS Li GD Hayes RC Hughes SJ Charman N Ballard RA 2007 Cullen australasicum (syn. Psoralea australasica): a review and some preliminary studies related to its potential as a low rainfall perennial pasture legume. The Rangeland Journal 29 121 132 doi:10.1071/RJ06039

de Groot CC Van den Boogaard R Marcelis LFM Harbinson J Lambers H 2003 Contrasting effects of N and P deprivation on the regulation of photosynthesis in tomato plants in relation to feedback limitation. Journal of Experimental Botany 54 1957 1967 doi:10.1093/jxb/erg193

Denton MD Sasse C Tibbett M Ryan MH 2006 Root distributions of Australian herbaceous perennial legumes in response to phosphorus placement. Functional Plant Biology 33 1091 1102 doi:10.1071/FP06176

Dwyer LM Stewart DW 1986 Effect of leaf age and position on net photosynthesis rates in maize (Zea mays L.). Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 37 29 46 doi:10.1016/0168-1923(86)90026-2

Ehleringer J Björkman O 1977 Quantum yields for CO2 uptake in C3 and C4 plants. Dependence on temperature, CO2, and O2 concentration. Plant Physiology 59 86 90 doi:10.1104/pp.59.1.86

Evans JR , Seemann JR (1989) The allocation of protein nitrogen in the photosynthetic apparatus: cost, consequences, and control. In ‘Photosynthesis’. (Ed. WR Briggs) pp. 183–205. (Alan R Liss: New York)

Fick GW , Holt DA , Lugg DG (1988) Environmental physiology and crop growth. In ‘Alfalfa and alfalfa improvement. Agronomy Monograph No. 29’. (Eds AA Hanson, DK Barnes, RR Hill) pp. 164–194. (American Society of Agronomy: Madison, WI)

Field F Mooney HA 1983 Leaf age and seasonal effects on light, water, and nitrogen use efficiency in a California shrub. Oecologia 56 348 355 doi:10.1007/BF00379711

Fletcher AL Moot DJ Stone PJ 2008 Radiation use efficiency and leaf photosynthesis of sweet corn in response to phosphorus in a cool temperate environment. European Journal of Agronomy 29 88 93 doi:10.1016/j.eja.2008.04.002

Fredeen AL Rao IM Terry N 1989 Influence of phosphorus nutrition on growth and carbon partitioning in Glycine max. Plant Physiology 89 225 230 doi:10.1104/pp.89.1.225

Friedrich JW Huffaker RC 1980 Photosynthesis, leaf resistances, and ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase degradation in senescing barley leaves. Plant Physiology 65 1103 1107 doi:10.1104/pp.65.6.1103

Ghannoum O Conroy JP 2007 Phosphorus deficiency inhibits growth in parallel with photosynthesis in a C3 (Panicum laxum) but not two C4 (P. coloratum and Cenchrus ciliaris) grasses. Functional Plant Biology 34 72 81 doi:10.1071/FP06253

Griffiths FP 1949 Production and utilization of alfalfa. Economic Botany 3 170 183

Groom QJ Baker NR Long SP 1991 Photoinhibition of holly (Ilex aquifolium) in the field during the winter. Physiologia Plantarum 83 585 590

Handreck KA 1997 Phosphorus requirements of Australian native plants. Australian Journal of Soil Research 35 241 289 doi:10.1071/S96060

Heschel MS Stinchcombe JR Holsinger KE Schmitt J 2004 Natural selection on light response curve parameters in the herbaceous annual, Impatiens capensis. Oecologia 139 487 494 doi:10.1007/s00442-004-1553-z

Hollinger DY 1996 Optimality and nitrogen allocation in a tree canopy. Tree Physiology 16 627 634

Jacob J Lawlor DW 1991 Stomatal and mesophyll limitations of photosynthesis in phosphate deficient sunflower, maize and wheat plants. Journal of Experimental Botany 42 1003 1011

Jacob J Lawlor DW 1992 Dependence of photosynthesis of sunflower and maize leaves on phosphate supply, ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase activity, and ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate pool size. Plant Physiology 98 801 807 doi:10.1104/pp.98.3.801

Khamis S Chaillou S Lamaze T 1990 CO2 assimilation and partitioning of carbon in maize plants deprived of orthophosphate. Journal of Experimental Botany 41 1619 1625 doi:10.1093/jxb/41.12.1619

Kirschbaum MUF Bellingham DW Cromer RW 1992 Growth analysis of the effects of phosphorus nutrition on seedlings of Eucalyptus grandis. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 19 55 66 doi:10.1071/PP9920055

Kitajima K Mulkey SS Samaniego M Wright SJ 2002 Decline of photosynthetic capacity with leaf age and position in two tropical pioneer tree species. American Journal of Botany 89 1925 1932 doi:10.3732/ajb.89.12.1925

Kitson RE Mellon MG 1944 Colorimetric determination of phosphorus as molybdovanadophosphoric acid. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry. Analytical Edition 16 379 383 doi:10.1021/i560130a017

Lambers H , Chapin FS III , Pons TL (2008) ‘Plant physiological ecology.’ 2nd edn. (Springer-Verlag: New York)

Leech RM , Baker NR (1983) The development of photosynthetic capacity in leaves. In ‘The growth and functioning of leaves’. (Eds JE Dale, FL Milthorpe) pp. 271–308. (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge)

Li GD Lodge GM Moore GA Craig AD Dear BS et al 2008 Evaluation of perennial pasture legumes and herbs to identify species with high herbage mass and persistence in mixed farming zones in southern Australia. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 48 449 466 doi:10.1071/EA07108

Littell RC , Milliken GA , Stroup WW , Wolfinger RD (1996) ‘SAS System for mixed models.’ (SAS Institute: Cary, NC)

Littell RC Henry PR Ammerman CB 1998 Statistical analysis of repeated measures data using SAS procedures. Journal of Animal Science 76 1216 1231

Lizaso JI Batchelor WD Boote KJ Westgate ME Rochette P Moreno-Sotomayor A 2005 Evaluating a leaf-level canopy assimilation model linked to CERES-Maize. Agronomy Journal 97 734 740

Marshall B Biscoe PV 1980 A model for C3 leaves describing the dependence of net photosynthesis on irradiance. II. Application to the analysis of flag leaf photosynthesis. Journal of Experimental Botany 31 41 48 doi:10.1093/jxb/31.1.41

Monsi M Saeki T 2005 On the factor light in plant communities and its importance for dry matter production. Annals of Botany 95 549 567 doi:10.1093/aob/mci052

Monteith J , Unsworth M (1990) ‘Principles of environmental physics.’ (Arnold: London)

Nelson DW , Sommers LE (1996) Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In ‘Methods of soil analysis part 3 – chemical methods’. (Ed. DL Sparks) pp. 961–1010. (Soil Science Society of America: Madison, WI)

Niinemets U Kull O Tenhunen JD 2004 Within canopy variation in the rate of development of photosynthetic capacity is proportional to integrated quantum flux density in temperate deciduous trees. Plant, Cell & Environment 27 293 313 doi:10.1111/j.1365-3040.2003.01143.x

Noguchi K Sonoike K Terashima I 1996 Acclimation of respiratory properties of leaves of Spinacia oleracea L., a sun species, and of Alocasia macrorrhiza (L.) G. Don., a shade species, to changes in growth irradiance. Plant & Cell Physiology 37 377 384

Osborne B Garrett M 1983 Quantum yields for CO2 uptake in some diploid and tetraploid plant species. Plant, Cell & Environment 6 135 144

Pang J Tibbett M Denton MD Lambers H Siddique KHM Bolland MDA Revell CK Ryan MH 2010 Variation in seedling growth of 11 perennial legumes in response to phosphorus supply. Plant and Soil 328 133 143 doi:10.1007/s11104-009-0088-9

Pearcy RW , Sims DA (1994) Photosynthetic acclimation to changing light environments: scaling from the leaf to the whole plant. In ‘Exploitation of environmental heterogeneity by plants’. (Eds MM Caldwell, RW Pearcy) pp. 145–174. (Academic Press: San Diego)

Peat WE 1970 Relationships between photosynthesis and light intensity in the tomato. Annals of Botany 34 319 328

Pieters AJ Paul MJ Lawlor DW 2001 Low sink demand limits photosynthesis under Pi deficiency. Journal of Experimental Botany 52 1083 1091

Plénet D Etchebest S Mollier A Pellerin S 2000 a Growth analysis of maize field crops under phosphorus deficiency. I. Leaf growth. Plant and Soil 223 117 130

Plénet D Mollier A Pellerin S 2000 b Growth analysis of maize field crops under phosphorus deficiency. II. Radiation use efficiency, biomass accumulation and yield components. Plant and Soil 224 259 272

Potvin C Lechowicz MJ Tardif S 1990 The statistical analysis of ecophysiological response curves obtained from experiments involving repeated measures. Ecology 71 1389 1400 doi:10.2307/1938276

Rao IM Terry N 1989 Leaf phosphate status, photosynthesis and carbon partitioning in sugar beet. I. Changes in growth, gas exchange and Calvin cycle enzymes. Plant Physiology 90 814 819 doi:10.1104/pp.90.3.814

Robinson K Bell LW Bennett RG Henry DA Tibbett M Ryan MH 2007 Perennial legumes native to Australia – a preliminary investigation of nutritive value and response to cutting. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 47 170 176 doi:10.1071/EA06043

Rodríguez D Andrade FH Goudriaan J 2000 Does assimilate supply limit leaf expansion in wheat grown in the field under low phosphorus availability? Field Crops Research 67 227 238 doi:10.1016/S0378-4290(00)00098-8

Sands PJ 1995 Modelling canopy production. I. Optimal distribution of photosynthetic resources. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 22 593 601 doi:10.1071/PP9950593

Sands PJ 1996 Modelling canopy production. III. Canopy light-utilisation efficiency and its sensitivity to physiological and environmental variables. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 23 103 114 doi:10.1071/PP9960103

Schachtman DP Reid RJ Ayling SM 1998 Phosphorus uptake by plants: from soil to cell. Plant Physiology 116 447 453 doi:10.1104/pp.116.2.447

Shane MW McCully ME Lambers H 2004 Tissue and cellular phosphorus storage during development of phosphorus toxicity in Hakea prostrata (Proteaceae). Journal of Experimental Botany 55 1033 1044 doi:10.1093/jxb/erh111

Shirke PA 2001 Leaf photosynthesis, dark respiration and fluorescence as influenced by leaf age in an evergreen tree, Prosopis juliflora. Photosynthetica 39 305 311 doi:10.1023/A:1013761410734

Singsaas EL Ort DR Delucia EH 2001 Variation in measured values of photosynthetic quantum yield in ecophysiological studies. Oecologia 128 15 23 doi:10.1007/s004420000624

Small E (2009) Distribution of perennial Medicago with particular reference to agronomic potential for semiarid Mediterranean climate. In ‘New perennial legumes’. (Ed. SJ Bennett) pp. 57–80. (University of Western Australia Press: Perth)

Smillie RM 1962 Photosynthetic and respiratory activities of growing pea leaves. Plant Physiology 37 716 721 doi:10.1104/pp.37.6.716

Stirling CM Aguilera C Baker NR Long SP 1994 Changes in the photosynthetic light response curve during leaf development of field grown maize with implications for modelling canopy photosynthesis. Photosynthesis Research 42 217 225 doi:10.1007/BF00018264

Suzuki S Nakamoto H Ku MSB Edwards GE 1987 Influence of leaf age on photosynthesis, enzyme activity, and metabolite levels in wheat. Plant Physiology 84 1244 1248 doi:10.1104/pp.84.4.1244

Thornley JHM 2002 Instantaneous canopy photosynthesis: analytical expressions for sun and shade leaves based on exponential light decay down the canopy and an acclimated non-rectangular hyperbola for leaf photosynthesis. Annals of Botany 89 451 458 doi:10.1093/aob/mcf071

Thornley JHM 2004 Acclimation of photosynthesis to light and canopy nitrogen distribution: an interpretation. Annals of Botany 93 473 475 doi:10.1093/aob/mch051

Thornley JHM , Johnson IR (2000) ‘Plant and crop modelling: a mathematical approach to plant and crop physiology.’ (Blackburn Press: New Jersey)

Vance CP Uhde-Stone C Allan DL 2003 Phosphorus acquisition and use: critical adaptations by plants for securing a nonrenewable resource. New Phytologist 157 423 447 doi:10.1046/j.1469-8137.2003.00695.x

Witkowski ETF Lamont BB Walton CS Radford S 1992 Leaf demography, sclerophylly and ecophysiology of two Banksias with contrasting leaf life spans. Australian Journal of Botany 40 849 862 doi:10.1071/BT9920849

Xie S Luo X 2003 Effect of leaf position and age on anatomical structure, photosynthesis, stomatal conductance and transpiration of Asian pear. Botanical Bulletin of Academia Sinica 44 297 303

Supplementary MaterialSupplementary Material 96.5 KB Export Citation