Alternate application of osmotic and nitrogen stresses to partial root system: Effects on root growth and nitrogen use efficiency

Tiantian Hu, Shaozhong Kang*, Fucang Zhang, Jianhua ZHANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Effects of alternately applying osmotic and nitrogen (N) stresses to partial root zone were studied on maize seedlings. The maize seedlings were grown in Hoagland's nutrient solution with the roots divided equally into two containers. Half of the root system was subjected to an osmotic stress (W) using PEG 6000 added in the solution at -0.2 MPa and/or nitrogen stress (N) with the N-free Hoagland's solution. After 6 days, four of such treatments, C (control), W, N, and WN were shifted to the other halves of the root systems. Results showed that when compared to the control, total root dry weight and the root/shoot ratio increased markedly for all the stress treatments. There were no statistically significant differences in shoot biomass and N accumulation of the whole plant among all the treatments. Nitrogen use efficiency for the N and WN was significantly enhanced when compared to the C and W treatments, and the shoot N concentrations were less for N and WN than for C and W. The root vitality of the non-treated halves under the W, N, or WN treatments increased by 21.1-65.6% when compared to the other halves of the same root system or by 19.7-68.9% when compared to the control roots. Such a compensation of root function was evident during our days 1, 3, and 5 observations. After each alternation, rates of biomass accumulation of all previously stressed half root systems were significantly higher than the other halves or the controls. Our results suggested that significant compensation mechanisms of growth and functions in the root system occurred both when N and osmotic stresses were localized in part of the root system and during the subsequent recovery from either of such stresses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2079-2092
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Plant Nutrition
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2006

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Physiology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Maize (Zea mays)
  • Nitrogen stress
  • Nitrogen use efficiency
  • Osmotic stress
  • Partial root zone
  • Root growth


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