Remobilized old-leaf nitrogen predominates for spring growth in two temperate grasses


Author for correspondence: Ursula Bausenwein Tel: +44 (0)1224 318 611 Fax: +44 (0)1224 498 206 Email:


  • • The importance of N derived from internal remobilization and root uptake to growth in spring is reported here for the perennial grasses Festuca rubra and Agrostis capillaris derived from seminatural grasslands in Scotland, UK.
  • • Plants grown in sand culture, received 15N-enriched nutrient solution during the first year of growth and nutrient solution with N at natural abundance during the subsequent spring and summer when destructive harvests were taken.
  • • Labelled N was recovered in new growth of overwintering tillers and new tillers. Remobilized N contributed 70% and 82% for F. rubra and A. capillaris, respectively, to the total N in new above-ground growth in early spring, declining to 34% and 45%, respectively, by mid June. Species showed similar patterns of remobilization on a new growth biomass basis. The root system did not remobilize N to support new above-ground growth. Labelled N was derived from senescing leaves present on overwintering tillers. Net balances of labelled N suggest that N was translocated between tillers; reproductive tillers acted as sinks, vegetative tillers as the source of N.
  • • Initial growth in spring is largely independent of N uptake from the soil, provided that overwintering leaves are present on the plants.