Growth and dry-mass partitioning in tomato as affected by phosphorus nutrition and light


Correspondence: C.C. de Groot. Present address: Plant Research International, PO Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


We studied the effects of phosphorus (P) and light on the physiological and morphological components of growth of young tomato plants (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. cv. Capita). The importance of dry-mass partitioning and starch accumulation in explaining the effects of P limitation on growth was examined more closely. Plants were grown at a wide range of exponential P supply rates (between 70 and 320 mg g−1 d−1) and one free-access treatment (1 mm). Two light levels (70 and 300 µmol m−2 s−1) were applied. Growth response coefficients (GRCs) were calculated to address the importance of different growth parameters in explaining relative growth rate (RGR). At both light levels, net assimilation rate (NAR) was more important than leaf area ratio (LAR) in explaining the effects of P on growth as indicated by GRCs. At less severe P limitation, LAR became more important and NAR less important. Dry-mass partitioning to both roots and leaves played a minor role in determining the effects of P limitation on growth as indicated by low GRCs. The increase in starch at mild P limitation showed that the assimilate supply was not limiting. At severe P limitation, the rate of photosynthesis was decreased, as suggested by the decrease in starch accumulation.