Root mass carbon costs to acquire nitrogen are determined by nitrogen and light availability in two species with different nitrogen acquisition strategies

Evan A. Perkowski, Elizabeth F. Waring, Nicholas G. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Plant nitrogen acquisition requires carbon to be allocated belowground to build roots and sustain microbial associations. This carbon cost to acquire nitrogen varies by nitrogen acquisition strategy; however, the degree to which these costs vary due to nitrogen availability or demand has not been well tested under controlled conditions. We grew a species capable of forming associations with nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Glycine max) and a species not capable of forming such associations (Gossypium hirsutum) under four soil nitrogen levels to manipulate nitrogen availability and four light levels to manipulate nitrogen demand in a full-factorial greenhouse experiment. We quantified carbon costs to acquire nitrogen as the ratio of total root carbon to whole-plant nitrogen within each treatment combination. In both species, light availability increased carbon costs due to a larger increase in root carbon than whole-plant nitrogen, while nitrogen fertilization generally decreased carbon costs due to a larger increase in whole-plant nitrogen than root carbon. Nodulation data indicated that G. max shifted relative carbon allocation from nitrogen fixation to direct uptake with increased nitrogen fertilization. These findings suggest that carbon costs to acquire nitrogen are modified by changes in light and nitrogen availability in species with and without associations with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5766-5776
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Volume72
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 28 2021

Keywords

  • Aboveground-belowground interactions
  • cotton
  • legume
  • nitrogen demand
  • nitrogen fixation
  • nitrogen uptake
  • rhizobium
  • soybean

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