Plant and Soil

, Volume 182, Issue 1, pp 101–114

Long-term effects of CO2 enrichment and temperature increase on a temperate grass sward

II. Plant nitrogen budgets and root fraction
  • J. F. Soussana
  • E. Casella
  • P. Loiseau


Perennial ryegrass swards were grown in large containers on a soil and were exposed during two years to elevated (700 μL L-1) or ambient atmospheric CO2 concentration at outdoor temperature and to a 3 °C increase in air temperature in elevated CO2. The nitrogen nutrition of the grass sward was studied at two sub-optimal (160 and 530 kg N ha-1 y-1) and one non-limiting (1000 kg N ha-1 y-1) N fertilizer supplies. At cutting date, elevated CO2 reduced by 25 to 33%, on average, the leaf N concentration per unit mass. Due to an increase in the leaf blade weight per unit area in elevated CO2, this decline did not translate for all cuts in a lower N concentration per unit leaf blade area. With the non-limiting N fertilizer supply, the leaf N concentration (% N) declined with the shoot dry-matter (DM) according to highly significant power models in ambient (% N=4.9 DM-0.38) and in elevated (%N=5.3 DM-0.52) CO2. The difference between both regressions was significant and indicated a lower critical leaf N concentration in elevated than in ambient CO2 for high, but not for low values of shoot biomass. With the sub-optimal N fertilizer supplies, the nitrogen nutrition index of the grass sward, calculated as the ratio of the actual to the critical leaf N concentration, was significantly lowered in elevated CO2. This indicated a lower inorganic N availability for the grass plants in elevated CO2, which was also apparent from the significant declines in the annual nitrogen yield of the grass sward and in the nitrate leaching during winter. For most cuts, the harvested fraction of the plant dry-matter decreased in elevated CO2 due, on average, to a 45–52% increase in the root phytomass. In the same way, a smaller share of the plant total nitrogen was harvested by cutting, due, on average, to a 25–41% increase in the N content of roots. The annual means of the DM and N harvest indices were highly correlated to the annual means of the nitrogen nutrition index. Changes in the harvest index and in the nitrogen nutrition index between ambient and elevated CO2 were also positively correlated. The possible implication of changes in the soil introgen cycle and of a limitation in the shoot growth potential of the grass in elevated. CO2 is discussed.

Key words

climate change grassland Lolium perenne nitrogen yield nitrogen cycle root 



outdoor climate


outdoor climate +350 μL L-1[CO2]


outdoor climate +350 μL L-1 (CO2) and +3 °C


low N fertilizer supply


high N fertilizer supply


non-limiting N fertilizer supply




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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. F. Soussana
    • 1
  • E. Casella
    • 1
  • P. Loiseau
    • 1
  1. 1.Fonctionnement et Gestion de l'Ecosystème PrairialINRA-AgronomieClermont Ferrand Cedex 2France

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