, Volume 102, Issue 3, pp 305–311

Interspecies differences in the preference of ammonium and nitrate in vascular plants

  • Ursula Falkengren-Grerup
Original Paper


Three solution experiments were performed to test the importance of NH4+versus NO3-+NH4+to growth of 23 wild-forest and open-land species, using field-relevant soil solution concentrations at pH 4.5. At N concentrations of 1–200 μM growth increased with increasing N supply in Carex pilulifera, Deschampsia flexuosa, Elymus caninus and Bromus benekenii. Geum urbanum was the most N demanding species and had little growth below 200 μM. The preference for NH4+or NO3-+NH4+was tested also at pH 4.0; no antagonism was found between NH4+and H+, as indicated by similar relative growth in both of the N treatments at both pH levels. Growth in solution with NH4+relative to NO3-+NH4+, 200 μM, was negatively related to the mean pH of the field occurrence of the species tested; acid-tolerant species grew equally well with only NH4+as with NO3-+NH4+(Oxalis acetosella, Carex pilulifera, Festuca gigantea, Poa nemoralis, Deschampsia flexuosa, Stellaria holostea, Rumex acetosella), while species of less acid soils were favoured by NO3-+NH4+(Urtica dioica, Ficaria verna, Melandrium rubrum, Aegopodium podagraria, Geum urbanum, Bromus benekenii, Sanguisorba minor, Melica ciliata, Silene rupestris, Viscaria vulgaris, Plantago lanceolata). Intermediate species were Convallaria majalis, Elymus caninus, Hordelymus europaeus and Milium effusum. No antagonism between NH4+and Ca2+, Mg2+ and K+ was indicated by the total uptake of the elements during the experiment.

Key words

Ammonium uptake Nitrate uptake Nitrogen preference Nitrogen mineralization Vascular plants 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Blacquière T, Voortman E, Stulen I (1988) Ammonium and nitrate nutrition in Plantago lanceolata L and Plantago major L ssp major. Plant Soil 106:23–34Google Scholar
  2. Bogner W (1968) Experimentelle Prüfung von Waldbodenpflanzen auf ihre Ansprüche an die Form der Stickstoffernährung. Mitt Ver Forstl Standortsk Forstpflanzenz 18:3–45Google Scholar
  3. Breteler H (1973) A comparison between ammonium and nitrate nutrition of young sugar-beet plants grown in nutrient solutions at constant acidity. 1. Production of dry matter, ionic balance and chemical composition. Neth J Agric Sci 21:227–244Google Scholar
  4. Brunet J (1994) Interacting effects of pH, aluminium and base cations on growth and mineral composition of the woodland grasses Bromus benekenii and Hordelymus europaeus. Plant Soil 161:157–166Google Scholar
  5. Chaillou S, Morot-Gaudry J-F, Lesaint C, Salsac L, Jolivet E (1986a) Nitrate or ammonium nutrition in French bean. Plant Soil 91:363–365Google Scholar
  6. Chaillou S, Morot-Gaudry J-F, Salsac L, Lesaint C, Jolivet E (1986b) Compared effects of NO3 and NH4+ on growth and metabolism of French bean. Physiol Veg 24:679–687Google Scholar
  7. Chapin FS, Moilanen L, Kielland K (1993) Preferential use of organic nitrogen for growth by a non-mycorrhizal arctic sedge. Nature 361:150–153Google Scholar
  8. Davidson EA, Stark JM, Firestone MK (1990) Microbial production and consumption of nitrate in an annual grassland. Ecology 71:1968–1975Google Scholar
  9. Falkengren-Grerup U (1992) Soil and floral changes in hardwood forests of southern Sweden (in Swedish with English summary). National Swedish Environment Protection Board, report 4061, SolnaGoogle Scholar
  10. Falkengren-Grerup U (1994) Importance of soil solution chemistry to field performance of Galium odoratum and Stellaria nemorum. J Appl Ecol 31:182–192Google Scholar
  11. Falkengren-Grerup U, Lakkenborg-Kristensen H (1994) Importance of ammonium and nitrate to the performance of herblayer species from deciduous forests in southern Sweden. Environ Exp Bot 34:31–38Google Scholar
  12. Falkengren-Grerup U, Tyler G (1992) Chemical conditions limiting survival and growth of Galium odoratum (L) Scop in acid forest soil. Acta Oecol 13:169–180Google Scholar
  13. Falkengren-Grerup U, Tyler G (1993a) Soil cheical properties excluding field-layer species from beech forest mor. Plant Soil 148:185–191Google Scholar
  14. Falkengren-Grerup U, Tyler G (1993b) Experimental evidence for the relative sensitivity of deciduous forest plants to high soil acidity. For Ecol Manage 60:311–326Google Scholar
  15. Falkengren-Grerup U, Tyler G (1993c) The importance of soil acidity, moisture, exchangeable cation pools and organic matter solubility to the cationic composition of beech forest (Fagus sylvatica) soil solution. Z Pflanzenernähr Bodenkd 156:365–370Google Scholar
  16. Findenegg GR (1987) A comparative study of ammonium toxicity at different constant pH of the nutrient solution. Plant Soil 103:239–243Google Scholar
  17. Gigon A, Rorison IH (1972) The response of some ecologically distinct plant species to nitrate- and to ammonium-nitrogen. J Ecol 60:93–102Google Scholar
  18. Grauer UE, Horst WJ (1990) Effect of pH and nitrogen source on aluminium tolerance of rye (Secale cereale L) and yello lupin (Lupinus luteus L). Plant Soil 127:13–21Google Scholar
  19. Hackett C (1965) Ecological aspects of the nutrition of Deschampsia flexuosa (L) Trin. II. The effects of Al, Ca, Fe, K, Mn, N, P and pH on the growth of seedlings and established plants. J Ecol 53:315–333Google Scholar
  20. Jackson LE, Schimel JP, Firestone MK (1989) Short-term partitioning of ammonium and nitrate between plants and microbes in an annual grassland. Soil Biol Biochem 21:409–415Google Scholar
  21. Johansen A, Jakobsen I, Jensen ES (1993a) Hyphal transport by a vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus of N applied to the soil as ammonium or nitrate. Biol Fertil Soils 16:66–70Google Scholar
  22. Johansen A, Jakobsen I, Jensen ES (1993b) External hyphae of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi associated with Trifolium subterraneum L. 3. Hyphal transport of 32P and 15N. New Phytol 124:61–68Google Scholar
  23. Klotz F, Horst WJ (1988) Effect of ammonium- and nitrate-nitrogen nutrition on aluminium tolerance of soybean (Glycine max L). Plant Soil 111:59–65Google Scholar
  24. Kpodar PM, Latché JC, Cavlaié G (1992) Répercussions d'une alimentation azotée ammoniacale sur le metabolisme carboné photosynthétique chez le soya (Glycine max L Merr). Agron Paris 12:265–275Google Scholar
  25. Kurvits A, Kirkby EA (1980) The uptake of nutrients by sunflower plants (Helianthus annuus) growing in a continuous flowing culture system, supplied with nitrate or ammonium as nitrogen source. Z Pflanzenernähr Bodenkd 143:140–149Google Scholar
  26. Le Tacon F, Timbal J, Valdenaire JO (1982) Influence de la forme d'azote minéral sur la croissance d'éspèces herbacées forestières. Acta Oecol 3:307–318Google Scholar
  27. Neitzke M (1990) Einfluß von Ammonium- und Nitratstickstoff auf die Entwicklung von Buchenjungpflanzen. Z Pflanzenernähr Bodenkd 153:225–228Google Scholar
  28. Read DJ, Leake JR, Langdale AR (1989) The nitrogen nutrition of mycorrhizal fungi and their host plants. In: Boddy L, Marchant RJ, Read DJ (eds) Nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur utilization by fungi. British Mycological Society, Cambridge, UK, pp 181–204Google Scholar
  29. Rorison IH (1985) Nitrogen source and the tolerance of Deschampsia flexuosa, Holcus lanatus and Bromus erectus to aluminium during seedling growth. J Ecol 73:83–90Google Scholar
  30. Rosnitschek-Schimmel I (1982) Effect of ammonium and nitrate supply on dry matter production and nitrogen distribution in Urtica dioica. Z Pflanzenphysiol 108:329–341Google Scholar
  31. Runge M (1983) Physiology and ecology of nitrogen nutrition. In: Lange DL, Nobel PS, Osmond CB, Ziegler H (eds) Physiological plant ecology. III. Response to the chemical and biological environment. (Encyclopedia of plant physiology, new series, vol 12C) Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp 163–200Google Scholar
  32. Ruzika J, Hansen EH (1981) Flow injection analysis. Chemical analysis. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Shen L, Foster JG, Orcutt DM (1990) Influence of nitrate and ammonium on the growth and 2,4-deaminobutyric acid composition of flatpea (Lathyrus sylvestris L). Plant Cell Environ 13:833–838Google Scholar
  34. Schimel JP, Jackson LE, Firestone MK (1989) Spatial and temporal effects on plant-microbial competition for inorganic nitrogen in a California annual grassland. Soil. Biol Biochem 21:1059–1066Google Scholar
  35. Westling O (1989) Deposition of atmospheric pollutants in Scania (in Swedish). (Report) Swedish Environment Research Institute Stockholm, pp 1–14Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ursula Falkengren-Grerup
    • 1
  1. 1.Soil-Plant ResearchDepartment of EcologyLundSweden

Personalised recommendations