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PLoS One. 2011 Apr 22;6(4):e19211. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019211.

Patterns of plant biomass partitioning depend on nitrogen source.

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  • 1Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, Sweden.


Nitrogen (N) availability is a strong determinant of plant biomass partitioning, but the role of different N sources in this process is unknown. Plants inhabiting low productivity ecosystems typically partition a large share of total biomass to belowground structures. In these systems, organic N may often dominate plant available N. With increasing productivity, plant biomass partitioning shifts to aboveground structures, along with a shift in available N to inorganic forms of N. We tested the hypothesis that the form of N taken up by plants is an important determinant of plant biomass partitioning by cultivating Arabidopsis thaliana on different N source mixtures. Plants grown on different N mixtures were similar in size, but those supplied with organic N displayed a significantly greater root fraction. ¹⁵N labelling suggested that, in this case, a larger share of absorbed organic N was retained in roots and split-root experiments suggested this may depend on a direct incorporation of absorbed amino acid N into roots. These results suggest the form of N acquired affects plant biomass partitioning and adds new information on the interaction between N and biomass partitioning in plants.

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