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Keywords:

  • adventitious roots;
  • N uptake;
  • root mortality;
  • seminal roots;
  • xylem sap;
  • Zea mays

Abstract

The aims of this work were to investigate possible reasons for root mortality of maize plants at the reproductive stage and relationships between root mortality and internal sugar and external nitrogen (N) supply. Maize (Zea mays L.) plants were grown in the field in fertile soil and in a greenhouse in quartz sand with sufficient or deficient N supply. Deficient N supply reduced plant growth and total N uptake by 38% and 52%, respectively. The lengths of the seminal roots and of the early initiated adventitious roots of the first two whorls declined after reaching their maximum values before silking, no matter whether the plants were grown in the field or in quartz sand in the greenhouse. The lengths of the adventitious roots from higher nodes of plants grown in quartz sand, irrespective of N supply, did not decrease at the reproductive stage despite of decreasing sugar concentrations. In contrast, under field conditions, the length of adventitious roots from higher nodes decreased during grain filling. Total activity of all roots of greenhouse-grown plants as deduced from translocation of N and cytokinins in the xylem exudate reached peak values at the end of the growing period, whereas in field-grown plants N translocation decreased and cytokinin translocation did not change toward the end of the growing period. The results indicate that the pattern of root growth and mortality of maize plants in the reproductive stage was not affected by external N supply. Differences between glasshouse- and field-grown plants are possibly due to effects of soil biota, which have to be further studied.