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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(12)

Effects of nitrogen supply on canopy development of maize and sunflower

A. M. Massignam A C D , S. C. Chapman B , G. L. Hammer C and S. Fukai C

A Epagri/Ciram, Bairro Itacorubi, Caixa Postal 502, 88034-901 Florianópolis – SC, Brazil.
B CSIRO Plant Industry, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia.
C The University of Queensland, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: massigna@epagri.sc.gov.br

Crop and Pasture Science 62(12) 1045-1055 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/CP11165
Submitted: 30 June 2011  Accepted: 1 December 2011   Published: 10 February 2012

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Nitrogen (N) limitation reduces canopy carbon assimilation by directly reducing leaf photosynthesis, and by developmentally reducing the rate of new leaf area development and accelerating leaf senescence. Effective use of N for biomass production under N limitation may be considered to be a result of a trade-off between the use of N to maintain high levels of specific leaf nitrogen (SLN the amount of N per unit leaf area) for high photosynthetic rate versus using N to maintain leaf area development (leaf area index – LAI). The objective here is to compare the effects of N supply on the dynamics of LAI and SLN for two crops, maize (Zea mays L.) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) that contrast in the structure and development of their canopy. Three irrigated experiments imposed different levels of N and plant density. While LAI in both maize and sunflower was reduced under N limitation, leaf area development was more responsive to N supply in sunflower than maize. Observations near anthesis showed that sunflower tended to maintain SLN and adjust leaf area under reduced N supply, whereas maize tended to maintain leaf area and adjust SLN first, and, when this was not sufficient, SLN was also reduced. The two species responded differently to variation in N supply, and the implication of these different strategies for crop adaptation and management is discussed.

Additional keywords: Helianthus annuus L., leaf area index, leaf size, N demand, specific leaf nitrogen, Zea mays L.


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