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Plant Cell Environ. 2009 Sep;32(9):1272-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3040.2009.02011.x. Epub 2009 Jun 10.

Root based approaches to improving nitrogen use efficiency in plants.

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School of Agriculture Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide, Urrbrae, SA 5064, Australia.


In the majority of agricultural growing regions, crop production is highly dependent on the supply of exogenous nitrogen (N) fertilizers. Traditionally, this dependency and the use of N-fertilizers to restore N depleted soils has been rewarded with increased plant health and yields. In recent years, increased competition for non-renewable fossil fuel reserves has directly elevated prices of N-fertilizers and the cost of agricultural production worldwide. Furthermore, N-fertilizer based pollution is becoming a serious issue for many regions where agriculture is highly concentrated. To help minimize the N footprint associated with agricultural production there is significant interest at the plant level to develop technologies which can allow economically viable production while using less applied N. To complement recent reviews examining N utilization efficiency in agricultural plants, this review will explore those strategies operating specifically at the root level, which may directly contribute to improved N use efficiencies in agricultural crops such as cereals, where the majority of N-fertilizers are used and lost to the environment. Root specific phenotypes that will be addressed in the context of improvements to N acquisition and assimilation efficiencies include: root morphology; root to shoot ratios; root vigour, root length density; and root N transport and metabolism.

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