Drought and interspecific competition increase belowground carbon allocation for nitrogen acquisition in monocultures and mixtures of Trifolium repens and Lolium perenne

Chunlian Qiao, Xiaoguang Wang, Milad Bagheri Shirvan, Claudia Keitel, Timothy R. Cavagnaro, Feike A. Dijkstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Belowground carbon (C) allocation for nitrogen (N) acquisition plays a crucial role in determining primary productivity and plant competitiveness in legume-grass mixtures, but beyond modeling and qualitative assessments, this remains poorly understood, especially with regard to drought stress and interspecific interactions. 

Methods: We grew a legume (Trifolium repens) and a grass (Lolium perenne) in monocultures and as a 50:50 mixture (with same plant density), at 70% and 50% soil water holding capacity representing non-drought and drought conditions, for 104 days in a growth chamber experiment. By using continuous 13CO2 labelling and 15N pulse soil-labelling, we analyzed how drought and interspecific interaction affected belowground C allocation (including root biomass, root respiration and rhizodeposition) and N acquisition through soil N uptake and biological N fixation. 

Results: Drought increased belowground C allocation per unit of N acquisition in the legume, but not in the grass. Drought significantly reduced biological N fixation in the legume, so that the legume allocated relatively more C to take up soil N. Interspecific competition increased belowground C allocation per unit of N acquisition, which could be attributed to a reduction in biological N fixation by the legume and an increased abundance of the grass. 

Conclusions: We highlight that drought and interspecific competition for N strongly alter C allocation towards biological N fixation and soil N uptake. Our measurements provide important process-based information to improve modeling drought effects on productivity and composition in legume-grass mixtures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-283
Number of pages15
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume481
Issue number1-2
Early online date3 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • 13C tracer
  • 15N tracer
  • Biological nitrogen fixation
  • Rhizodeposition
  • Root biomass
  • Root respiration
  • Water stress

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