How meristem plasticity in response to soil nutrients and light affects plant growth in four Festuca grass species
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- •Investigation of responses of meristems to environmental conditions is important for understanding the mechanisms and consequences of plant phenotypic plasticity. Here, we examined how meristem plasticity to light and soil nutrients affected leaf growth and relative growth rate (RGR) in fast- and slow-growing Festuca grass species.
- •Activity in shoot apical meristems was measured by leaf appearance rate, and that in leaf meristems by the duration and rate of cell production, which was further divided into single cell cycle time and the number of dividing cells.
- •Light and soil nutrients affected activity in shoot apical meristems similarly. The high nutrient supply increased the number of dividing cells, which was responsible for enhancement of cell production rate; shaded conditions extended the duration of cell production. As a result, leaf length increased under high nutrient and shaded conditions. The RGR was correlated positively with the total meristem size of the shoot under a low nutrient supply, implying inhibition of RGR by cell production under nutrient-limited conditions. Fast-growing species were more plastic for cell production rate and specific leaf area (SLA) but less plastic for RGR than slow-growing species.
- •This study demonstrates that meristem plasticity plays key roles in characterizing environmental responses of plant species.