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Root distributions of Australian herbaceous perennial legumes in response to phosphorus placement

Denton, M. D., Sasse, C., Tibbett, M. and Ryan, M. H. (2006) Root distributions of Australian herbaceous perennial legumes in response to phosphorus placement. Functional Plant Biology, 33 (12). pp. 1091-1102. ISSN 1445-4408

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1071/FP06176

Abstract/Summary

Many Australian plant species have specific root adaptations for growth in phosphorus-impoverished soils, and are often sensitive to high external P concentrations. The growth responses of native Australian legumes in agricultural soils with elevated P availability in the surface horizons are unknown. The aim of these experiments was to test the hypothesis that increased P concentration in surface soil would reduce root proliferation at depth in native legumes. The effect of P placement on root distribution was assessed for two Australian legumes, Kennedia prorepens F. Muell. and Lotus australis Andrews, and the exotic Medicago sativa L. Three treatments were established in a low-P loam soil: amendment of 0.15 g mono-calcium phosphate in either (i) the top 50 mm (120 µg P g–1) or (ii) the top 500 mm (12 µg P g–1) of soil, and an unamended control. In the unamended soil M. sativa was shallow rooted, with 58% of the root length of in the top 50 mm. K. prorepens and L. australis had a more even distribution down the pot length, with only 4 and 22% of their roots in the 0–50 mm pot section, respectively. When exposed to amendment of P in the top 50 mm, root length in the top 50 mm increased 4-fold for K. prorepens and 10-fold for M. sativa, although the pattern of root distribution did not change for M. sativa. L. australis was relatively unresponsive to P additions and had an even distribution of roots down the pot. Shoot P concentrations differed according to species but not treatment (K. prorepens 2.1 mg g–1, L. australis 2.4 mg g–1, M. sativa 3.2 mg g–1). Total shoot P content was higher for K. prorepens than for the other species in all treatments. In a second experiment, mono-ester phosphatases were analysed from 1-mm slices of soil collected directly adjacent to the rhizosphere. All species exuded phosphatases into the rhizosphere, but addition of P to soil reduced phosphatase activity only for K. prorepens. Overall, high P concentration in the surface soil altered root distribution, but did not reduce root proliferation at depth. Furthermore, the Australian herbaceous perennial legumes had root distributions that enhanced P acquisition from low-P soils.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Biodiversity, Crops and Agroecosystems Division > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:45380
Publisher:CSIRO Publishing

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