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Plant root proliferation in nitrogen-rich patches confers competitive advantage

Robinson, D, Hodge, A, Griffiths, B S and Fitter, A H (1999) Plant root proliferation in nitrogen-rich patches confers competitive advantage. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. pp. 431-435. ISSN 1471-2954

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Plants respond to environmental heterogeneity, particularly below ground, where spectacular root proliferations in nutrient-rich patches may occur. Such 'foraging' responses apparently maximize nutrient uptake and are now prominent in plant ecological theory. Proliferations in nitrogen-rich patches are difficult to explain adaptively, however. The high mobility of soil nitrate should limit the contribution of proliferation to N capture. Many experiments on isolated plants show only a weak relation between proliferation and N uptake. We show that N capture is associated strongly with proliferation during interspecific competition for finite, locally available, mixed N sources, precisely the conditions under which N becomes available to plants on generally infertile soils. This explains why N-induced root proliferation is an important resource-capture mechanism in N-limited plant communities and suggests that increasing proliferation by crop breeding or genetic manipulation will have a limited impact on N capture by well-fertilized monocultures.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: Copyright © 1999 The Royal Society
Keywords: morphological plasticity, nutrient patch, nutrient uptake, plant competition, root proliferation, PHOSPHATE-UPTAKE, NITRATE, SOIL, GROWTH, RATES, HETEROGENEITY, ACQUISITION, PLASTICITY, GRASSLAND, SYSTEM
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Biology (York)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2006
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2015 07:36
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.1999.0656
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1278

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