Effects of nitrogen deficiency on leaf photosynthetic response of tall fescue to water deficit



Abstract. The objective of the present work was to study the effect of nitrogen deficiency on drought sensitivity of tall fescue plants. The authors compared photosynthetic and stomatal behaviour of plants grown at either high (8 mol m−3) or low (0.5 mol m−3) nitrogen levels during a drought cycle followed by rehydration. Other processes investigated were stomatal and non-stomatal inhibition of leaf photosynthesis, water use efficiency and leaf rolling. Plants were grown in pots in controlled conditions on expanded clay. A Wescor in situ hygrometer placed on the leaf base outside the assimilation chamber permitted, simultaneously to leaf gas exchange measurements, monitoring of leaf water potential. Drought was imposed by withholding water from the pot. CO2 uptake and stomatal conductance decreased and leaves started to roll at a lower leaf water potential in the high-N than in the low-N grown plants. Stomatal inhibition of leaf photosynthesis seemed larger in the low-N than in the high-N plants. Water-use efficiency increased more in the high-N than in the low-N grown plants during the drought. The decrease of photosynthesis was largely reversible after rehydration in low-N but not in high-N leaves. The authors suggest that low-N plants avoid water deficit rather than tolerate it.