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J Plant Physiol. 2006 Dec;163(12):1293-304. Epub 2005 Nov 8.

Local NO3- or NH4+ supply modifies the root system architecture of Cedrus atlantica seedlings grown in a split-root device.

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  • 1Unité Mixte de Recherche INRA-ENSA.M Rhizosphère & Symbiose (UMR 1222), Bât. 13., Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, 2 Place Viala, 34060 Montpellier Cedex 1, France. boukcim@ensam.inra.fr


To study the effects of local nitrate or ammonium supply on the architecture of the Cedrus atlantica root system, cedar seedlings were grown in split-root boxes in a growth chamber. In each box-compartment, roots were fertilized with a solution containing nitrogen, either as nitrate [Ca(NO(3))(2)] or ammonium (NH(4)Cl), supplied at 0.1 or 5.0mM. For each seedling, the shoot growth was measured twice a week for 3 months. The root system architecture was also recorded twice a week by tracing the root elongation through the transparent face of the root observation boxes. The apical diameter of the tap-root relay and that of a representative sample of lateral roots were recorded once a month using a monocular magnifier. The increase of ammonium or nitrate concentration in the nutrient solution has significantly enhanced the production of lateral roots on the tap-root relay. After 90 days of culture, percentages of short lateral roots obtained with nitrate were higher than those obtained using ammonium. A preferential carbon allocation to the shoots was also obtained with an increasing nitrogen supply. Until the 40th day of culture, the elongation of lateral roots was similar for all treatments and ranged from 0.25 to 0.5 cm day(-1). From the 40th day to the 95th day, significant differences were observed between the compared modes and maximum elongation rates were obtained with 5mM NH(4)(+) (2.18 cm day(-1)) and 5mM NO(3)(-) (1.18 cm day(-1)). Local applications of nitrate and ammonium at a low or a high concentration had local effects on elongation and branching of the root system in the fertilized compartment. Contrasting effects of ammonium and nitrate were observed on the apical diameter of tap-roots and lateral roots. The root-split culture device confirmed that nitrate had local effects on the architecture of the C. atlantica root system.

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