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How Do Nutrients Drive Growth

I. Burns, R. L. Walker, J. Moorby
Published 1997 · Biology

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The relationship between plant nutrient concentration and relative growth rate (RGR) was studied under non-steady state conditions using data from a new N interruption experiment with young lettuce plants grown hydroponically in the glasshouse. RGRs estimated from the fit of a versatile growth model were shown to decline curvilinearly with plant N concentration as N deficiency increased. Similar curvilinear relationships were also derived when the same model was used to reanalyse data for N, P and K interruption treatments from other experiments previously published in the literature. These results clearly indicate that the rate of remobilisation of nutrient reserves varies with the nutrient status of the plant. This contrasts with the linear relationships observed where the changes in plant N concentration occurred solely as a response to increasing plant age, or when plants were grown under steady state conditions with constant relative nutrient addition rates. These differences in the pattern of response provide strong evidence to support the hypothesis that the form of the relationship between RGR and plant nutrient concentration can vary depending upon whether a plant's external supplies or internal reserves of a particular nutrient are more limiting.
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