The aim of this work was to examine the response of wheat plants to a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration on: (1) carbon and nitrogen partitioning in the plant; (2) carbon release by the roots; and (3) the subsequent N uptake by the plants. The experiment was performed in controlled laboratory conditions by exposing fast-growing spring wheat plants, during 28 days, to a 14CO2 concentration of 350 or 700 μL L−1 at two levels of soil nitrogen fertilization. Doubling CO2 availability increased total plant production by 34% for both N treatment. In the N-fertilized soil, the CO2 enrichment resulted in an increase in dry mass production of 41% in the shoots and 23% in the roots; without N fertilization this figure was 33% and 37%, respectively. In the N-fertilized soil, the CO2 increase enhanced the total N uptake by 14% and lowered the N concentration in the shoots by 23%. The N concentration in the roots was unchanged. In the N-fertilized soil, doubling CO2 availability increased N uptake by 32% but did not change the N concentrations, in either shoots or roots. The CO2 enrichment increased total root-derived carbon by 12% with N fertilization, and by 24% without N fertilization. Between 85 and 90% of the total root derived-14C came from respiration, leaving only 10 to 15% in the soil as organic 14C. However, when total root-derived 14C was expressed as a function of root dry weight, these differences were only slightly significant. Thus, it appears that the enhanced carbon release from the living roots in response to increased atmospheric CO2, is not due to a modification of the activity of the roots, but is a result of the increased size of the root system. The increase of root dry mass also resulted in a stimulation of the soil N mineralization related to the doubling atmospheric CO2 concentration. The discussion is focused on the interactions between the carbon and nitrogen allocation, especially to the root system, and the implications for the acquisition of nutrients by plants in response to CO2 increase.
carbon partitioning CO2 enrichment nitrogen mineralization nitrogen partitioning rhizosphere wheat