A meta-analysis of crop response patterns to nitrogen limitation for improved model representation

Verena Seufert, Gustaf Granath, Christoph Müller

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

The representation of carbon-nitrogen (N) interactions in global models of the natural or managed land surface remains an important knowledge gap. To improve global process-based models we require a better understanding of how N limitation affects photosynthesis and plant growth. Here we present the findings of a meta-analysis to quantitatively assess the impact of N limitation on source (photosynthate production) versus sink (photosynthate use) activity, based on 77 highly controlled experimental N availability studies on 11 crop species. Using meta-regressions, we find that it can be insufficient to represent N limitation in models merely as inhibiting carbon assimilation, because in crops complete N limitation more strongly influences leaf area expansion (-50%) than photosynthesis (-34%), while leaf starch is accumulating (+83%). Our analysis thus offers support for the hypothesis of sink limitation of photosynthesis and encourages the exploration of more sink-driven crop modelling approaches. We also show that leaf N concentration changes with N availability and that the allocation of N to Rubisco is reduced more strongly compared to other photosynthetic proteins at low N availability. Furthermore, our results suggest that different crop species show generally similar response patterns to N limitation, with the exception of leguminous crops, which respond differently. Our meta-analysis offers lessons for the improved depiction of N limitation in global terrestrial ecosystem models, as well as highlights knowledge gaps that need to be filled by future experimental studies on crop N limitation response.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0223508
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019

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Photosynthesis
meta-analysis
Crops
Meta-Analysis
Nitrogen
nitrogen
Carbon
crops
Ribulose-Bisphosphate Carboxylase
photosynthates
Availability
photosynthesis
Starch
Ecosystem
ribulose-bisphosphate carboxylase
Growth
Ecosystems
leaves
Proteins
leaf area

Cite this

Seufert, Verena ; Granath, Gustaf ; Müller, Christoph. / A meta-analysis of crop response patterns to nitrogen limitation for improved model representation. In: PLoS ONE. 2019 ; Vol. 14, No. 10. pp. 1-25.
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A meta-analysis of crop response patterns to nitrogen limitation for improved model representation. / Seufert, Verena; Granath, Gustaf; Müller, Christoph.

In: PLoS ONE, Vol. 14, No. 10, e0223508, 17.10.2019, p. 1-25.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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