Plant and Soil

, Volume 178, Issue 2, pp 185–192 | Cite as

Nutrient inflow and root proliferation during the exploitation of a temporally and spatially discrete source of nitrogen in soil

  • M. M. I. van Vuuren
  • D. Robinson
  • B. S. Griffiths
Research Article


To obtain nutrients mineralised from organic matter in the soil, plants have to respond to its heterogeneous distribution. We measured the timing of nitrogen uptake by wheat from a localised, 15N labelled organic residue in soil, as well as the timing of changes in root length density. We calculated the rates of N uptake per unit root length (inflows) for roots growing through the residue and for the whole root system. A stimulated local inflow appeared to be the main mechanism of exploitation of the residue N during the first five days of exploitation. 8% of the N that the plants would ultimately obtain from the residue was captured in this period. Roots then proliferated in the residue. This, together with a rapidly declining N inflow, contributed to the capture, over the next seven days, of 63% of the N that the plants derived from the residue. After that time, massive root proliferation occurred in the residue, but relatively little further N was captured.

Key words

ammonium heterogeneity inflow localised nutrient mineralisation 15nitrate organic residue proliferation roots soil uptake wheat 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Brady D J, Gregory P J and Fillery I R P 1993 The contribution of different regions of the seminal roots of wheat to uptake of nitrate from soil. In Plant Nutrition: From Genetic Engineering to Field Practice. Ed. N J Barrow. pp 169–172. Kluwer, Dordrecht, the Netherlands.Google Scholar
  2. Burns I G 1991 Short- and long-term effects of a change in the spatial distribution of nitrate in the root zone on N uptake, growth and root development of young lettuce plants. Plant Cell Environ. 14, 21–33.Google Scholar
  3. Campbell B D and Grime J P 1989 A new method of exposing developing root systems to controlled patchiness in mineral nutrient supply. Ann. Bot. 63, 395–400.Google Scholar
  4. Campbell G S 1985 Soil Physics with BASIC. Transport Models for Soil-Plant Systems. Elsevier, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.Google Scholar
  5. Chapin F S, Clarkson D T, Lenton J R and Walter C H S 1988 Effect of nitrogen stress and abscisic acid on nitrate absorption and transport in barley and tomato. Planta 173, 340–351.Google Scholar
  6. Clarke A L and Barley K P 1968 The uptake of nitrogen from soils in relation to solute diffusion. Aust. J. Soil Res. 6, 75–92.Google Scholar
  7. De Jager A 1982 Effects of localized supply of H2PO4, NO3, SO4, Ca and K on the production and distribution of dry matter in young maize plants. Neth. J. Agric. Sci. 30, 193–203.Google Scholar
  8. Drew M C 1975 Comparison of the effects of a localized supply of phosphate, nitrate, ammonium and potassium on the growth of the seminal root system, and the shoot, in barley. New Phytol. 75, 479–490.Google Scholar
  9. Drew M C and Saker L R 1975 Nutrient supply and the growth of the seminal root system in barley. II. Localized, compensatory increases in lateral root growth and rates of nitrate uptake when nitrate supply is restricted to only part of the root system. J. Exp. Bot. 26, 79–90.Google Scholar
  10. Drew M C and Saker L R 1978 Nutrient supply and the grwoth of the seminal root system in barley. III. Compensatory increases in growth of lateral roots, and in rates of phosphate uptake, in response to a localized supply of phosphate. J. Exp. Bot. 29, 435–451.Google Scholar
  11. Genstat 5 Committee 1988 Genstat 5 Reference Manual, 2nd ed. Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK.Google Scholar
  12. Griffiths B S, van Vuuren M M I and Robinson D 1994 Microbial grazer populations in a 15N labelled organic residue and the uptake of residue N by wheat. Eur. J. Agron. 3, 321–325.Google Scholar
  13. Harris G A and Campbell G S 1989 Automated quantification of roots using a simple image analyzer. Agron. J. 81, 935–938.Google Scholar
  14. Hewitt E J 1966 Sand and water culture methods used in the study of plant nutrition, 2nd ed. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Technical Communication No. 22., East Malling, Kent, UK.Google Scholar
  15. Hunt R and Parsons I T 1974 A computer program for deriving growth-functions in plant growth-analysis. J. Appl. Biol. 11, 297–307.Google Scholar
  16. Jackson R B and Caldwell M M 1991 Kinetic responses of Pseudorogneria roots to localized soil enrichment. Plant and Soil 138, 231–238.Google Scholar
  17. Jackson R B, Manwaring J H and Caldwell M M 1990 Rapid physiological adjustment of roots to localized soil enrichment. Nature 344, 58–60.Google Scholar
  18. Joner E J and Jakobsen I 1994 Contribution by two arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to P uptake by cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) from 32P-labelled organic matter during mineralization in soil. Plant and Soil 163, 203–209.Google Scholar
  19. Nicolardot B, Denys D, Lagacherie B, Cheneby D and Mariotti M 1995 Decomposition of 15N-labelled catch-crop residues in soil: evaluation of N mineralization and plant-N uptake potential under controlled conditions. Eur. J. Soil Sci. 46, 115–123.Google Scholar
  20. Nye P H and Tinker P B 1977 Solute Movement in the Soil-Root System. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford, UK.Google Scholar
  21. Redinbaugh M G and Campbell W H 1991 Higher plant responses to environmental nitrate. Physiol. Plant. 82, 640–650.Google Scholar
  22. Rees R M, Yan L and Ferguson M 1993 The release and plant uptake of nitrogen from some plant and animal manures. Biol. Fertil. Soils 15, 285–293.Google Scholar
  23. Robinson D 1994a The responses of plants to non-uniform supplies of nutrients. New Phytol. 127, 635–674.Google Scholar
  24. Robinson D 1994b Resource capture by single roots. In Resource Capture by Crops. Eds. J L Monteith, R K Scott and M H Unsworth. pp 53–76. Nottingham University Press, Nottingham, UK.Google Scholar
  25. Robinson D, Linehan D J and Gordon D C 1994 Capture of nitrate from soil by wheat in relation to root length, nitrogen inflow and availability. New Phytol. 128, 297–305.Google Scholar
  26. Robinson D and Rorison I H 1983 A comparison of the responses of Lolium perenne L., Holcus lanatus L. and Deschampsia flexuosa (L.) Trin. to a localized supply of nitrogen. New Phytol. 94, 263–273.Google Scholar
  27. Ta T C and Faris M A 1990 Availability of N from 15N-labelled alfalfa residues to three succeeding barley crops under field conditions. Soil Biol. Biochem. 22, 835–838.Google Scholar
  28. Vallis I 1983 Uptake by grass and transfer to soil of nitrogen from 15N-labelled legume materials applied to a Rhodes Grass pasture. Aust. J. Agric. Res. 34, 367–376.Google Scholar
  29. Van Noordwijk M, Ruiter P C de, Zwart K B, Bloem J, Moore J C, van Faassen H G and Burgers S L G E 1993 Synlocation of biological activity, roots, cracks and recent organic inputs in a sugar beet field. Geoderma 56, 265–276.Google Scholar
  30. Wheatley R E, Griffiths B S and Ritz K 1991 Variations in the rates of nitrification and denitrification during the growth of potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.) in soil with different carbon inputs and the effect of these inputs on soil nitrogen and plant yield. Biol. Fertil. Soils 11, 157–162.Google Scholar
  31. Wiesler F and Horst W J 1994 Root growth and nitrate utilization of maize cultivars under field conditions. Plant and Soil 163, 267–277.Google Scholar
  32. Yanai J, Linehan D J, Robinson D, Young I M, Hackett C A, Kyuma K and Kosaki T 1996 Effects of inorganic nitrogen application on the dynamics of the soil solution composition in the root zone of maize in a Scottish soil. Plant and Soil 179.Google Scholar
  33. Zaccheo P, Crippa L and Genevini P L 1993 Nitrogen transformation in soil treated with 15N labelled dried or composted ryegrass. Plant and Soil 148, 193–201.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. M. I. van Vuuren
    • 1
  • D. Robinson
    • 1
  • B. S. Griffiths
    • 1
  1. 1.Cellular and Environmental Physiology DepartmentScottish Crop Research InstituteDundeeUK

Personalised recommendations