Response of root morphology to nitrate supply and its contribution to nitrogen accumulation in maize

Yan Wang, Guohua Mi*, Fanjun Chen, Jianhua ZHANG, Fesuo Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


Selection for nitrogen (N)-efficient crops is considered to be an effective approach for minimizing the input and the loss of N fertilizers in agricultural fields. This study investigated the hypothesis that nitrate supply may induce changes in root morphology so that N uptake efficiency can be influenced. Different levels of nitrate concentration (0.04, 0.2, 2, and 4 mM) were supplied to five maize (Zea mays L.) inbred lines that had shown different N efficiencies. Possible correlations between N-uptake efficiency and several root parameters of root morphology were evaluated. The two N-efficient varieties, 478 and H21, had higher shoot and root weight and absorbed more N than the two N-inefficient lines, Wu312 and Zong31, especially under low N supply. In general, high nitrate levels (2 and 4 mM) increased the total length of lateral roots (LR), but limited the total length of primary roots (PR) (including seminal and nodal roots) as well as the average length of primary roots. As a result, the total root length (TR) increased with the increasing of nitrate levels. Total N accumulation had significant positive correlations with the root dry weight, TR, and PR at low N supply (0.04-2 mM). At high N supply (4 mM), however, only LR was to some extent correlated to N accumulation. It is concluded that, under N deficient situation, a larger root system (total root length and root surface area) that resulted mainly from the longer primary roots contributed to the efficient N accumulation. At sufficient N supply, longer lateral roots are the main factor contributed to N accumulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2189-2202
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Plant Nutrition
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Physiology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Maize
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrogen uptake
  • Roots
  • Zea mays L.


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