, Volume 229, Issue 2, pp 235-243

Root exudates: a pathway for short-term N transfer from clover and ryegrass

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The short-term transfer of nitrogen (N) from legumes to grasses was investigated in two laboratory studies. One study was done in pots where the roots of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) were allowed to co-exist, and a second study was performed using a micro-lysimeter system designed to maintain nutrient flow from the clover to the grass, whilst removing direct contact between the root systems. The 15N-dilution technique was used to quantify the transfer of N between species. Levels of ammonia and amino acids were measured in root exudates. The amounts of N transferred were in the same order of magnitude in both the pot and micro-lysimeter experiments. In the micro-lysimeter experiment, 0.076 mg of N were transferred per plant from clover to ryegrass during the course of the experiment. Ammonium exudation was much higher than amino acid exudation. The most abundant amino acids in both clover and ryegrass root exudates were serine and glycine. However, there was no correlation between the free amino acid profile of root extracts and exudates for both plant species: Asparagine was the major amino acid in clover roots, while glutamine, glutamate and aspartate were the major amino acids in ryegrass roots. Comparison of exudates obtained from plants grown in non-sterile or axenic conditions provides evidence of plant origin of ammonium, serine and glycine.