Plant responses to increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations have received considerable interest. However, major uncertainties in relation to interactive effects of CO2 with above- and below-ground conditions remain. This microcosm study investigated the impacts of CO2 concentration on plant growth, dry matter partitioning and rhizodeposition as affected by: (i) photon flux density (PFD), and (ii) growth matrix. Plants were grown in a sandy loam soil for 28 d under two photon flux densities: 350 (low PFD) and 1000 μmol m–2 s–1 (high PFD) and two CO2 concentrations: 450 (low CO2) and 720 μmol mol–1 (high CO2). Partitioning of recent assimilate amongst plant and rhizosphere C-pools was determined by use of 14CO2 pulse-labelling. In treatments with high PFD and/or high CO2, significant (P < 0.05) increases in dry matter production were found in comparison with the low PFD/low CO2 treatment. In addition, significant (P < 0.05) reductions in shoot %N and SLA were found in treatments imposing high PFD and/or high CO2. Root weight ratio (RWR) was unaffected by CO2 concentration, however, partitioning of 14C to below ground pools was significantly (P < 0.05) increased. In a separate study, L. perenne was grown for 28 d in microcosms percolated with nutrient solution, in either a sterile sand matrix or nonsterile soil, under high or low CO2. Dry matter production was significantly (P < 0.01) increased for both sand and soil grown seedlings. Dry matter partitioning was affected by matrix type. 14C-allocation below ground was increased for sand grown plants. Rhizodeposition was affected by CO2 concentration for growth in each matrix, but was increased for plants grown in the soil matrix, and decreased for those in sand. The results illustrate that plant responses to CO2 are potentially affected by (i) PFD, and (ii) by feedbacks from the growth matrix. Such feedbacks are discussed in relation to soil nutrient status and interactions with the rhizosphere microbial biomass.
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