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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Strength and size of phosphorus-rich patches determine the foraging strategy of Neyraudia reynaudiana

Cai, Liping; Wang, Yuzhen; Tigabu, Mulualem; Hou, Xiaolong; Wu, Pengfei; Zhou, Chuifan; Ma, Xiangqing


BackgroundUnder natural conditions, soil nutrients are heterogeneously distributed, and plants have developed adaptation strategies to efficiently forage patchily distributed nutrient. Most previous studies examined either patch strength or patch size separately and focused mainly on root morphological plasticity (increased root proliferation in nutrient-rich patch), thus the effects of both patch strength and size on morphological and physiological plasticity are not well understood. In this study, we examined the foraging strategy of Neyraudia reynaudiana (Kunth) Keng ex Hithc, a pioneer grass colonizing degraded sites, with respect to patch strength and size in heterogeneously distributed phosphorus (P), and how foraging patchily distributed P affects total plant biomass production. Plants were grown in sand-culture pots divided into 1/2, 1/4, 1/6 compartments and full size and supplied with 0+0/30, 0+7.5/30 and 7.5+0/30mg P/kg dry soil as KH2PO4 or 0+15/15, 0+18.5/ 18.5, 7.5+15/15mgkg-1 in the homogenous treatment. The first amount was the P concentration in the central region, and that the second amount was the P concentration in the outer parts of the pot.ResultsAfter 3months of growth under experimental conditions, significantly (p<0.05) high root elongation, root surface area, root volume and average root diameter was observed in large patches with high patch strength. Roots absorbed significantly more P in P-replete than P-deficient patches. Whole plant biomass production was significantly higher in larger patches with high patch strength than small patches and homogeneous P distribution.ConclusionThe result demonstrates that root morphological and physiological plasticity are important adaptive strategies for foraging patchily distributed P and the former is largely determined by patch strength and size. The results also establish that foraging patchily distributed P resulted in increased total plant biomass production compared to homogeneous P distribution.


Nutrient foraging; Nutrient patches; Root morphological plasticity; Root physiological plasticity; Phosphorus stress

Published in

BMC Plant Biology
2020, Volume: 20, number: 1, article number: 545
Publisher: BMC

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Forest Science

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