• Carbohydrates;
  • A/Ci response;
  • Glycine max;
  • sink strength;
  • water content

1. We report changes in photosynthetic capacity of leaves developed in varying photon flux density (PFD), nitrogen supply and CO2 concentration. We determined the relative effect of these environmental factors on photosynthetic capacity per unit leaf volume as well as the volume of tissue per unit leaf area. We calculated resource-use efficiencies from the photosynthetic capacities and measurements of leaf dry mass, carbohydrates and nitrogen content.

2. There were clear differences between the mechanisms of photosynthetic acclimation to PFD, nitrogen supply and CO2. PFD primarily affected volume of tissue per unit area whereas nitrogen supply primarily affected photosynthetic capacity per unit volume. CO2 concentration affected both of these parameters and interacted strongly with the PFD and nitrogen treatments.

3. Photosynthetic capacity per unit carbon invested in leaves increased in the low PFD, high nitrogen and low CO2 treatments. Photosynthetic capacity per unit nitrogen was significantly affected only by nitrogen supply.

4. The responses to low PFD and low nitrogen appear to function to increase the efficiency of utilization of the limiting resource. However, the responses to elevated CO2 in the high PFD and high nitrogen treatments suggest that high CO2 can result in a situation where growth is not limited by either carbon or nitrogen supply. Limitation of growth at elevated CO2 appears to result from internal plant factors that limit utilization of carbohydrates at sinks and/or transport of carbohydrates to sinks.