Plant and Soil

, Volume 391, Issue 1–2, pp 367–382

Carbon and nitrogen partitioning of wheat and field pea grown with two nitrogen levels under elevated CO2

Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-015-2441-5

Cite this article as:
Butterly, C.R., Armstrong, R., Chen, D. et al. Plant Soil (2015) 391: 367. doi:10.1007/s11104-015-2441-5


Background and Aims

Crop responses to elevated atmospheric CO2 are likely to be different in semi-arid cropping systems of Australia. This experiment aimed to investigate the interactive effects of atmospheric CO2 and nitrogen (N) fertiliser on carbon (C) and N partitioning in the soil-plant system of Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and field pea (Pisum sativum L.).


Plants were grown with 40 or 100 mg N kg−1 under ambient CO2 (390 ppm) or elevated CO2 (eCO2; 550 ppm) using free-air CO2 enrichment (SoilFACE). Repeated 13CO2 pulse labelling was used to quantify C transfer via plant to the soil. Destructive sampling was performed at grain filling and maturity.


eCO2 increased shoot biomass of field pea (36 %) and wheat (55 %) but only increased root biomass of wheat (13.5 %) in the 25–50 cm soil layer. Total N content of both species was greater under eCO2, and for field pea it indicated enhanced biological N2 fixation. However, eCO2 increased the C:N ratio of wheat even at the high N level. Greater 13C in soil of wheat grown under eCO2 indicated a minor increase in soil C via rhizodeposition.


Increased biomass and C:N ratio of wheat could have implications for residue decomposition. eCO2 and low N tended to increase grain yield but the increase was highly variable and not significant. Additional N content of field pea under eCO2 exceeded the N that would be removed in wheat grain, albeit with lower than expected grain yield due to dry conditions.


13C pulse-labelling Carbon and nitrogen cycling CO2 × N interaction High atmospheric CO2 Free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) 15 N 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal, Plant & Soil Sciences, Centre for AgriBioscienceLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & ResourcesHorshamAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural ScienceThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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