Temporal and Spatial Profiling of Root Growth Revealed Novel Response of Maize Roots under Various Nitrogen Supplies in the Field

2012-05-18T01:21:12Z (GMT) by Yunfeng Peng Xuexian Li Chunjian Li
<div><p>A challenge for Chinese agriculture is to limit the overapplication of nitrogen (N) without reducing grain yield. Roots take up N and participate in N assimilation, facilitating dry matter accumulation in grains. However, little is known about how the root system in soil profile responds to various N supplies. In the present study, N uptake, temporal and spatial distributions of maize roots, and soil mineral N (N<sub>min</sub>) were thoroughly studied under field conditions in three consecutive years. The results showed that in spite of transient stimulation of growth of early initiated nodal roots, N deficiency completely suppressed growth of the later-initiated nodal roots and accelerated root death, causing an early decrease in the total root length at the rapid vegetative growth stage of maize plants. Early N excess, deficiency, or delayed N topdressing reduced plant N content, resulting in a significant decrease in dry matter accumulation and grain yield. Notably, N overapplication led to N leaching that stimulated root growth in the 40–50 cm soil layer. It was concluded that the temporal and spatial growth patterns of maize roots were controlled by shoot growth and local soil N<sub>min</sub>, respectively. Improving N management involves not only controlling the total amount of chemical N fertilizer applied, but also synchronizing crop N demand and soil N supply by split N applications.</p> </div>