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Changes in root hydraulic conductance in relation to the overall growth response of maize seedlings to partial root-zone nitrogen application

Xiaoli, Niu, Hanmi, Zhou, Xiukang, Wang, Tiantian, Hu, Puyu, Feng, Ting, Li, Na, Zhao, Dongxue, Yin
Agricultural water management 2020 v.229 pp. 105839
Zea mays, compensatory growth, containers, corn, cortex, crops, early development, edaphic factors, hydraulic conductivity, nitrogen, nitrogen content, rhizosphere, seedling growth, seedlings, surface area, water uptake
The influence mechanism of heterogeneous nutrient distribution on compensatory growth of maize seedlings is a key topic in the interaction between crops and soil environment. We evaluated the significance of root hydraulic conductance (Lₚ) and related parameter changes in water uptake and growth regulation of plants under different nitrogen (N) conditions. Maize seedlings were grown in split-root containers containing N solutions. Three N treatments were applied: (1) full-strength N (control: C), in which both sub-root systems received 4.0 mM N (each sub-root: C44); (2) partial N deficit (D), in which each sub-root system received 2.0 mM N (D42) or full-strength N (D44); and (3) partial N resupply (S), in which both sub-root systems received 2.0 mM N for six days, followed by 2.0 mM N (S22) or full-strength N (S24). The shoot dry mass in D increased gradually with early development, and was greater than that in C and S within 15–21 day, suggesting that the superiority of partial N deficit (D) in term of maize seedling growth was apparent and caused compensatory growth. Moreover, the slope and intercept in D44 and D42 between ΨL vs. Lₚ and shoot N content vs. Lₚ were obviously greater than that in C44, S24 and S22, indicating that higher plant dry mass in D might be attributable to the maintenance of a similar ΨL and improved shoot N content. In addition, the slopes and intercepts in D44 and D42 between Lₚ vs. root surface area and shoot N content vs. root surface area were higher than that in S24 and S22, suggesting that compared with partial N resupply, partial N deficit was more advantageous to root water uptake and N accumulation at the same level of root surface area, thus resulted in higher dry mass of maize seedlings. However, partial N resupply significantly increased root cortex thickness/diameter ratio and reduced root vessel diameter, which resulted in lower Lₚ, ΨL and shoot N content during 12–21 day. Unexpectedly, at 21 day, the shoot dry mass in S could recover to the level of control. The regulation mechanisms in partial N resupply will be the focus of future studies. Thus, when adopting the method of partial N application, it is necessary to consider the soil N condition before partial application.