Estimating plasticity of leaf silicon (Si) in response to abiotic and biotic factors underpins our comprehension of plant defences and stress resistance in natural and agroecosystems. However, how nitrogen (N) addition and intraspecific plant-plant interactions affect Si accumulation remains unclear. We grew 19 durum wheat genotypes (Triticum turgidum ssp. durum) in pots, either alone, or in intra- or intergenotypic cultures of two individuals, and with or without N. Aboveground biomass, plant height and leaf [Si] were quantified at the beginning of the flowering stage. Nitrogen addition decreased leaf [Si] for most genotypes, proportionally to the biomass increase. Si plasticity to plant-plant interactions varied significantly among genotypes, with both increases and decreases in leaf [Si] when mixed with a neighbour, regardless of the mixture type (intra-/intergenotype). Besides, increased leaf [Si] in response to plant-plant interactions was associated with increased plant height. Our results suggest the occurrence of both facilitation and competition for Si uptake from the rhizosphere in wheat mixtures. Future research should identify which leaf and root traits characterize facilitating neighbours for Si acquisition. We also show that Si could be involved in height gain in response to intraspecific competition, possibly for increasing light capture. This important finding opens up new research directions on Si and plant-plant interactions in both natural ecosystems and agroecosystems. More generally, our results stress the need to explore leaf Si plasticity in responses to both abiotic and biotic factors to understand plant stress resistance.
|Date made available||2022|