PeerJ. 2022 Oct 31;10:e14273. doi: 10.7717/peerj.14273. eCollection 2022.
BACKGROUND: The nitrogen (N) and protein concentrations in plant tissues exposed to elevated CO2 (eCO2) generally decline , such declines in forage grass composition are expected to have negative implications for the nutritional and economic value of grass. Plants require N for the production of a photosynthetically active canopy and storage proteins in the tissues, whose functionality will strongly influence productivity and quality. The objective of this study was to investigate whether eCO2 plus N-fertilization increases growth and N nutrition of Agropyron mongolicum, and the dependence of this improvement on the coordination between root and leaf development.
METHODS: We analyzed A. mongolicum from field-grown within the open-top chambers (OTCs) facility under two atmospheric CO2 (ambient, 400 ± 20 µmol mol-1, aCO2, and elevated, 800 ± 20 µmol mol-1, eCO2) and three N-fertigation treatments (control, low N-fertigation , and high N-fertigation) for two months.
RESULTS: Elevated CO2 plus N-fertigation strongly increased shoot and root biomass, and the nitrogen and protein concentrations of A. mongolicum compared to those plants at aCO2 levels. Increased N content in leaves and reduced specific leaf area (SLA) at a high N supply could alleviate photosynthetic acclimation to eCO2 and drive the production of greater shoot biomass with the potential for higher photosynthesis, productivity, and nutritional quality. The increased root length (RL), the ratio of total aboveground N taken up per RL (TN/RL), stomatal conductance (Gs), and transpiration rate (Tr) contribute to the transpiration-driven mass flow of N, consequently increasing N uptake by roots. In addition, a smaller percentage of N remained as unassimilated nitrate ( NO3- ) under eCO2, indicating that assimilation of NO3- into proteins was not inhibited by eCO2. These findings imply that grass productivity and quality will enhance under anticipated elevated CO2 concentration when effective management measures of N-fertilization are employed.