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Research article2018Peer reviewed

Ecosystem C and N dynamics affected by a modified spring barley trait with increased nitrogen use - a simulation case study

Eckersten, Henrik; Marstorp, Hakan; Collentine, Dennis; Johnsson, Holger; Katterer, Thomas


To what extent might a crop with increased plant N uptake efficiency and/or N demand increase plant biomass and soil carbon storage, decrease N leaching, and reduce the need for N fertilisation? This was assessed for a fertilised sandy loam site in central Sweden cultivated with spring barley for a four year period using a process based crop and soil simulation model (SOILN) calibrated to fit observations of field experiments with non-modified crops. Crop properties were changed in accordance with previous model applications to other crops with higher N uptake and utilisation efficiencies, to resemble potential effects of breeding. For the modified crops a doubling of daily uptake efficiency of soil mineral N and/or increase of radiation use efficiency by 30%, increased plant biomass by 3%-30%, decreased N leaching by 1%-30% and increased soil organic carbon (SOC) content by 1-12 g C m(-2) year(-1). The larger changes were mainly due to increased uptake efficiency. Fertilisation of the modified spring barley crop could be reduced while still producing the same plant biomass as the non-modified crop. The plant biomass to N leaching ratio of the modified crops increased. The simulated changes in plant biomass and SOC were sensitive to weather conditions suggesting that in situ experiments would need to cover a large range of weather conditions to evaluate the performance of new crop traits under climatic variability. The study suggests a strong need that field experiments are accompanied with model applications, when exploring the potential of the modified crops under variable conditions.


Plant breeding; N uptake; N utilisation; N leaching; SOC; sandy loam; Sweden

Published in

Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B - Soil and Plant Science
2018, Volume: 68, number: 3, pages: 230-242 Publisher: TAYLOR & FRANCIS AS