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Effect of specific leaf nitrogen on radiation use efficiency and growth of sunflower

Bange, M.P., Hammer, G.L., Rickett, K.G.
Crop science 1997 v.37 no.4 pp. 1201-1208
Helianthus annuus, leaves, nitrogen, nitrogen content, nitrogen fertilizers, solar radiation, biomass, crop yield, seeds, harvest index, canopy, leaf area index, sunflower oil, flowering, carbon dioxide, photosynthesis, crude protein, protein content, application rate, Queensland
Specific leaf nitrogen (SLN, g/m2) is known to affect radiation use efficiency (RUE, g/MJ) in different crops. However, this association and importance have not been well established over a range of different nitrogen regimes for field-grown sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). An experiment was conducted to investigate different combinations and rates of applied nitrogen on SLN, RUE, and growth of sunflower. A fully irrigated crop was sown on an alluvial-prairie soil (Fluventic Haplustoll) and treated with five combinations of applied nitrogen. Greater nitrogen increased biomass, grain number, and yield, but did not affect harvest index energy-corrected for oil (0.4) or canopy extinction coefficient (0.88). Decreases in biomass accumulation under low nitrogen treatments were associated with reductions in leaf area index (LAI) and light interception. When SLN and RUE were examined together, both were less in the anthesis to physiological maturity period, but relatively stable between bud visible and anthesis. However, the effects of canopy SLN on RUE were confounded by high SLN in the top of the canopy and the crop maintaining SLN by reducing LAI. Measurements of leaf CO2 assimilation and theoretical analyses of RUE supported that RUE was related to SLN. The major effect of nitrogen on early growth of sunflower was mediated by leaf area and the distribution of SLN in the canopy rather than direct effects of canopy SLN on RUE alone. Greater responses of RUE to SLN are more evident later in growth, and may be related to the demand of nitrogen by the grain.