Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium uptake and demand in Agrostis capillaris: the influence of elevated CO2 and nutrient supply


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Responses to elevated CO2 have been studied using Agrostis capillaris L., an upland grass which is abundant on nutrient-poor soils. Plants were grown in sand culture with a wide range of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium concentrations, and the impact of CO2 on the demand for nutrients was determined using isotopic root bioassays. Plants grown with the smallest concentrations of N and P showed typical foliar symptoms associated with deficiency of these elements. However, even when supplies of N and P were limiting to growth, additional CO2 (250 ppm above ambient) influenced neither total N nor total P in above-ground tissues, nor nutrient demands as indicated by the bioassay. The estimates of the demand of the plants for K from the 86Rb bioassay indicated an appreciable increase when plants were raised in elevated CO2. For plants of the same size with the same nutrient supply, those grown in elevated CO2 consistently displayed an increased internal demand for K. Uptake of K was not however, enhanced by elevated CO2 even in non-limiting conditions and it might therefore be limited by a factor other than K supply. The overall conclusion from the experiments is that when A. capillaris is grown in elevated CO2, uptake of N, P and K fails to increase proportionally with dry mass. This was true even when nutrient supplies were adequate, and it appears that nutrient-use-efficiency might increase to enable the plants to maintain growth in elevated CO2.