Adaptive shoot and root responses collectively enhance growth at optimum temperature and limited phosphorus supply of three herbaceous legume species

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    Background and Aims Studies on the effects of sub- and/or supraoptimal temperatures on growth and phosphorus (P) nutrition of perennial herbaceous species at growth-limiting P availability are few, and the impacts of temperature on rhizosphere carboxylate dynamics are not known for any species.
    Methods The effect of three day/night temperature regimes (low, 20/13 °C; medium, 27/20 °C; and high, 32/25 °C) on growth and P nutrition of Cullen cinereum, Kennedia nigricans and Lotus australis was determined.
    Key Results The highest temperature was optimal for growth of C. cinereum, while the lowest temperature was optimal for K. nigricans and L. australis. At optimum temperatures, the relative growth rate (RGR), root length, root length per leaf area, total P content, P productivity and water-use efficiency were higher for all species, and rhizosphere carboxylate content was higher for K. nigricans and L. australis. Cullen cinereum, with a slower RGR, had long (higher root length per leaf area) and thin roots to enhance P uptake by exploring a greater volume of soil at its optimum temperature, while K. nigricans and L. australis, with faster RGRs, had only long roots (higher root length per leaf area) as a morphological adaptation, but had a higher content of carboxylates in their rhizospheres at the optimum temperature. Irrespective of the species, the amount of P taken up by a plant was mainly determined by root length, rather than by P uptake rate per unit root surface area. Phosphorus productivity was correlated with RGR and plant biomass.
    Conclusions All three species exhibited adaptive shoot and root traits to enhance growth at their optimum temperatures at growth-limiting P supply. The species with a slower RGR (i.e. C. cinereum) showed only morphological root adaptations, while K. nigricans and L. australis, with faster RGRs, had both morphological and physiological (i.e. root carboxylate dynamics) root adaptations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)959 - 968
    JournalAnnals of Botany
    Issue number5
    Early online date29 Jul 2012
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012


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