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Plant function and evolutionary biology

Sink Strength May Be the Key to Growth and Nitrogen Responses in N-Deficient Wheat at Elevated CO2

GS Rogers, PJ Milham, M Gillings and JP Conroy

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 23(3) 253 - 264
Published: 1996


The influence of elevated CO2 (350, 550 and 900 μL L-1) and N supplies ranging from deficient to excess (0-133 mg N kg-1 soil week-1) on the leaf N concentration and shoot growth of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), cultivar Hartog, was investigated. Shoot growth was 30 % greater at 550 μL L-1 compared to ambient CO2 at all levels of N supply. When the CO2 concentration was increased to 900 μL L-1, there was no increase in shoot growth at low N supply but it more than doubled at high N supply (67 mg N kg-1 soil week-1). Growth effects were closely matched by changes in sink development, suggesting that sink strength, mediated through N supply controlled the shoot growth response to elevated CO2. The shoot N concentration was lower at each level of CO2 enrichment and the greatest effect (30% reduction) occurred at 900 μL CO2 L-1, 33 mg N kg-1 soil week-1. The effect of high CO2 on shoot N concentration diminished as N supply increased and, at the highest N addition rate, there was only a 7% reduction. Changes in foliar N concentration due to CO2 enrichment were closely correlated with lower soluble protein concentration, accounting for 58 % of the total leaf N reduction. Ribulose- IS-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) levels were also reduced at high CO2 and N was allocated away from Rubisco and into other soluble proteins at high CO2 when N supply was low. Non- structural carbohydrate concentration (dry weight basis) was greatest at 900 μL CO2 L-1 and low N supply and may have reduced Rubisco concentration via a feed-back response. Critical foliar N concentrations (N concentration at 90 % of maximum shoot growth) were reduced from 43 mg g-1 at ambient CO2 to 39 and 38 mg g-1 at 550 and 900 μL CO2 L-1, respectively. Elevated CO2, at N supplies of 0-17 mg N kg-1 soil week-1, reduced flour protein concentration by 9-13 %.

© CSIRO 1996

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