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Am Nat. 1992 Oct;140(4):707-23. doi: 10.1086/285436.

The effect of nutrients and enriched CO$_2$ environments on production of carbon-based allelochemicals in Plantago: a test of the carbon/nutrient balance hypothesis.


In a test of the carbon/nutrient (C/N) balance hypothesis, we grew the perennial herb Plantago lanceolata in different CO2 and nutrient environments and then (1) measured the total allocation to shoots, roots, and reproductive parts and (2) quantified aucubin, catalpol, and verbascoside contents of replicate plants of six genotypes. Plants grown under low-nutrient conditions do have higher concentrations of carbon-based allelochemicals than plants grown under high-nutrient conditions. However, in contrast to the C/N balance hypothesis, plants grown in elevated (700 microL.L(-1)) CO2 conditions had similar, or lower, concentrations of carbon-based allelochemicals than plants grown in ambient (350 microL.L(-1) CO2 conditions. We suggest that augmented substrate concentrations (i.e., excess carbohydrates) are a necessary but insufficient trigger for increased secondary metabolism; instead, hormonal and/or direct physical cues (such as light) may be essential to synthesize or activate the appropriate enzyme systems. Moreover, although plant genotype significantly affected plant growth, reproduction, and chemistry, we never observed significant genotype-by-CO2 interactions for these factors, which suggests that changing CO2 environments may not improve the fitness of certain genotypes over others

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