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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Microbes or Nitrogen? Plant finds either ways to use carbon dioxide for growth

Plants grow faster when there is greater availability of carbon dioxide (CO2) but this is only possible if they have enough nitrogen or partner with fungi to accumulate them. This recent research was published in the journal Science.

The research was led by C├ęsar Terrer Moreno, PhD student at Imperial College London along with researchers from Northern Arizona University, the University of Antwerp, Indiana University and New South Wales University.

In their research they have carried out about 80 experiments to find higher CO2 enhanced plant growth but as long as it received enough nitrogen. In the absence of nitrogen CO2 had no effect. This lead to the confirmation that nitrogen has the ability to control the plant growth associated with CO2. But this also holds an additional exception: some plants which grow in mutuality with soil fungi able to respond better just like with the availability of nitrogen.

"Nitrogen and mycorrhizae are like the X-factors in plant responses to CO2," said Bruce Hungate, Director of NAU's Center for Ecosystem Science and Society and Regents' Professor of Biological Sciences, who was a co-author on the study. "Rising CO2 is not a universal fertilizer, but neither is nitrogen limitation a universal restriction on the CO2 response. The truth is in the middle, and microbes are the key mediators," Hungate said.

In mutuality relation between mycorrhizal fungi and plant both shares nutrients which help each other to grow. But this is not always the case for all mycorrhizal fungi. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are specialized in taking up phosphorous from the soil instead of nitrogen and the plants associated with these mycorrhizal fungi were not able to grow in response to CO2 unless extra nitrogen is added. It was the plants which associates with these partnerships respond to extra carbon dioxide without any added nitrogen fertilizers, because fungi able to produce enzymes that helps to liberate nitrogen from organic sources in soil and then take up the nitrogen to pass to plants.

The new synthesis offers a clear answer: "Plants need nitrogen to respond to high CO2, whether they find it readily available in the soil, or whether their mycorrhizal partners can help them get it," explained Hungate.

Source: Phys dot org


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