Background and Aims Some Lupinus species produce cluster roots in response to low plant phosphorus (P) status. The cause of variation in cluster-root formation among cluster-root-forming Lupinus species is unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate if cluster-root formation is, in part, dependent on different relative growth rates (RGRs) among Lupinus species when they show similar shoot P status.
Methods Three cluster-root-forming Lupinus species, L. albus, L. pilosus and L. atlanticus, were grown in washed river sand at 0, 7·5, 15 or 40 mg P kg−1 dry sand. Plants were harvested at 34, 42 or 62 d after sowing, and fresh and dry weight of leaves, stems, cluster roots and non-cluster roots of different ages were measured. The percentage of cluster roots, tissue P concentrations, root exudates and plant RGR were determined.
Key Results Phosphorus treatments had major effects on cluster-root allocation, with a significant but incomplete suppression in L. albus and L. pilosus when P supply exceeded 15 mg P kg−1 sand. Complete suppression was found in L. atlanticus at the highest P supply; this species never invested more than 20 % of its root weight in cluster roots. For L. pilosus and L. atlanticus, cluster-root formation was decreased at high internal P concentration, irrespective of RGR. For L. albus, there was a trend in the same direction, but this was not significant.
Conclusions Cluster-root formation in all three Lupinus species was suppressed at high leaf P concentration, irrespective of RGR. Variation in cluster-root formation among the three species cannot be explained by species-specific variation in RGR or leaf P concentration.