Is crop N demand more closely related to dry matter accumulation or leaf area expansion during vegetative growth?
ABSTRACT The critical crop nitrogen uptake is defined as the minimum nitrogen uptake necessary to achieve maximum biomass accumulation (W). Across a range of crops, the critical N uptake is related to W by a power function with a coefficient less than unity that suggests crop N uptake is co-regulated by both soil N supply and biomass accumulation. However, crop N demand is also often linearly related to the expansion of the leaf area index (LAI) during the vegetative growth period. This suggests that crop N demand could be also linked with LAI extension. In this paper, we develop theory to combine these two concepts within a common framework. The aim of this paper is to determine whether generic relationships between N uptake, biomass accumulation, and LAI expansion could be identified that would be robust across both species and environment types. To that end, we used the framework to analyze data on a range of species, including C3 and C4 ones and mono- and di-cotyledonous crops. All crops were grown in either temperate or tropical and subtropical environments without limitations on N supply. The relationship between N uptake and biomass was more robust, across environment types, than the relationship of LAI with biomass. In general, C3 species had a higher N uptake per unit biomass than C4 species, whereas dicotyledonous species tended to have higher LAI per unit biomass than monocotyledonous ones. Species differences in N uptake per unit biomass were partly associated with differences in LAI and N-partitioning. Consequently the critical leaf-N uptake per unit LAI (specific leaf nitrogen, SLN) was relatively constant across species at 1.8–2.0 g m−2, a value that was close to published data on the critical SLN of new leaves at the top of the canopy. Our results indicate that critical N uptake curves as a function of biomass accumulation may provide a robust platform for simulating N uptake of a species. However, if crop simulation models are to capture the genotypic and environmental control of crop N dynamics in a physiologically functional manner, plant growth has to be considered as the sum of a metabolic (e.g. leaves) and a structural (e.g. stems) compartment, each with its own demand for metabolic and structural N.
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ABSTRACT: A substantial increase in grain yield potential is required, along with better use of water and fertilizer, to ensure food security and environmental protection in future decades. For improvements in photosynthetic capacity to result in additional wheat yield, extra assimilates must be partitioned to developing spikes and grains and/or potential grain weight increased to accommodate the extra assimilates. At the same time, improvement in dry matter partitioning to spikes should ensure that it does not increase stem or root lodging. It is therefore crucial that improvements in structural and reproductive aspects of growth accompany increases in photosynthesis to enhance the net agronomic benefits of genetic modifications. In this article, six complementary approaches are proposed, namely: (i) optimizing developmental pattern to maximize spike fertility and grain number, (ii) optimizing spike growth to maximize grain number and dry matter harvest index, (iii) improving spike fertility through desensitizing floret abortion to environmental cues, (iv) improving potential grain size and grain filling, and (v) improving lodging resistance. Since many of the traits tackled in these approaches interact strongly, an integrative modelling approach is also proposed, to (vi) identify any trade-offs between key traits, hence to define target ideotypes in quantitative terms. The potential for genetic dissection of key traits via quantitative trait loci analysis is discussed for the efficient deployment of existing variation in breeding programmes. These proposals should maximize returns in food production from investments in increased crop biomass by increasing spike fertility, grain number per unit area and harvest index whilst optimizing the trade-offs with potential grain weight and lodging resistance.Journal of Experimental Botany 10/2010; 62(2):469-86. · 5.79 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The efficient use of fertilizer nitrogen (N) is crucial to sustainable human nutrition. All crops receive significant amounts of additional N in temperate environments, through fixation or fertilizer use. This paper reviews progress towards the efficient use of fertilizer N by winter wheat (Triticum aesitivum L.) and spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) in the UK, acknowledging that on-farm this is governed by economics. Recent multi-site N response experiments on old and modern varieties show that yield improvements since the 1980s have been accompanied by increases in economic optimum N amounts for wheat but not for spring barley. On-farm N use efficiency (NUE) has increased for barley because increased yields with optimum N were associated with compensatory decreases in grain N concentration, whereas on-farm NUE has not increased for wheat because grain N concentration has not changed and improvements in N capture were insufficient to make up for the increased yield. Genetic effects on NUE are shown to differ markedly depending on whether they are determined at a single N rate, as in variety trials, or with optimum N amounts. It is suggested that, in order to elicit faster improvement in NUE on farms, breeding and variety testing should be conducted at some sites with more than one level of applied N, and that grain N%, N harvest index, and perhaps canopy N ratio (kg N ha(-1) green area) should be measured more widely. It is also suggested that, instead of using empirical functions, N responses might be analysed more effectively using functions based on explanations of yield determination for which the parameters have some physiological meaning.Journal of Experimental Botany 05/2009; 60(7):1939-51. · 5.79 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to investigate the comparative effects of alternative partial root-zone irrigation (PRI) and deficit irrigation (DI) on fertilizer-N use efficiency in tomato plants under mineral N and organic N fertilizations. The plants were grown in split-root pots in a climate-controlled glasshouse and were subjected to PRI and DI treatments during early fruiting stage. When analyzed across the N fertilizer treatments, PRI treatment led to significantly higher N yield, agronomic N use efficiency (ANUE), and apparent N recovery efficiency (ANRE) as compared with the DI treatment, indicating significantly higher fertilizer-N use efficiency and soil N availability as well as enhanced plant’s N acquisition ability in the PRI treatment. Analysis across the irrigation treatments showed that the mineral N fertilizer treatment (MinN) significantly increased N yield, ANUE and ANRE relative to the organic N fertilizer treatment (OrgN). Compared with DI, the rhizosphere and bulk soil mineral N content in the soil were significantly lowered in the PRI treatment, indicating the enhanced root N uptake efficiency. It is suggested that PRI-enhanced soil water dynamics may have increased soil nitrate mass/diffusive flow to the root surfaces and root N uptake efficiency in the wetting soil and stimulated soil N mineralization and plant N demand, contributing to the improved fertilizer-N use efficiency in the PRI relative to the DI treatment.Irrigation Science 01/2012; 31(4):589-598. · 2.29 Impact Factor