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

Carbon and nitrogen balance in beech roots under competitive pressure of soil-borne microorganisms induced by girdling, drought and glucose application

Jana B. Winkler A , Michael Dannenmann B , Judy Simon C , Rodica Pena D , Christine Offermann C , Wolfgang Sternad C , Christian Clemenz A , Pascale S. Naumann E , Rainer Gasche B , Ingrid Kögel-Knabner E , Arthur Gessler C , Heinz Rennenberg C and Andrea Polle D F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Helmholtz Zentrum München, Institute of Soil Ecology, Department of Environmental Engineering, Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany.

B Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH, Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research Division, Kreuzeckbahnstraße 19, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

C Institute of Forest Botany and Tree Physiology, Chair of Tree Physiology, University of Freiburg, Georges-Koehler-Allee 53/54, 79110 Freiburg, Germany.

D Abteilung: Forstbotanik und Baumphysiologie, Büsgen-Institut, Georg-August Universität Göttingen, Büsgenweg 2, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.

E Lehrstuhl für Bodenkunde, Department für Ökologie und Ökosystemmanagement, Wissenschaftszentrum Weihenstephan, Technische Universität München, 85350 Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany.

F Corresponding author. Email: apolle@gwdg.de

Functional Plant Biology 37(9) 879-889 https://doi.org/10.1071/FP09309
Submitted: 29 December 2009  Accepted: 3 June 2010   Published: 24 August 2010

Abstract

The goal of this work was to increase the understanding of factors regulating nitrogen (N) competition between roots and soil microbes. For this purpose, root assimilate supply was diminished or abolished in beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) seedlings by girdling, drought stress or a combination of both factors. This was revealed by 13C tracer abundance in root tips after 13CO2 pulse labelling of the shoots. Analysis of different root tip fractions revealed that only 6% were ectomycorrhizal. Carbon (C) allocation to ectomycorrhizal and vital non-mycorrhizal root tips was ~26% higher than to distorted root tips. Drought resulted in ~30% increased ammonium (NH4+) and amino acid concentrations in roots and ~65% increased soil NH4+ concentrations, probably because of lower consumption of NH4+ by free-living microorganisms. Root uptake of glutamine of 13 nmol g–1 fresh mass h–1 decreased 2-fold with drought, although the number of vital root tips did not decrease. Carbon content in biomass of free-living microbes increased with glucose application regardless of drought, resulting in significant depletion in soil nitrate (NO3), root NH4+ and amino acid concentrations. Our results suggest that the root–soil system of young beech trees was C-limited, and this prevented amino acid metabolism in roots and microbial NO3 consumption in the soil, thereby exerting feedback inhibition on uptake of inorganic N by roots. We suggest that rhizodeposition is a key link in regulating the plant–microbial N balance.

Additional keywords: competition, ectomycorrhiza, Fagus sylvatica, microorganisms, root demography, stable isotopes.


Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the DFG (German Science Foundation) for financial support to the Beech Research Group (FOR 788) and acknowledge help with plant harvest, sample preparation or sample analyses by Dominik Dannenbauer, Jens Dyckmans, Merle Fastenrath, Peter Kary, Christine Kettner, Wolfgang Kornberger, Ursel Scheerer, Oliver Itzel, Michael Reichel and Sebastian Sippel.


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