Barley shoot biomass responds strongly to N:P stoichiometry and intraspecific competition, whereas roots only alter their foraging

Amit Kumar, Richard van Duijnen, Benjamin M. Delory, Rüdiger Reichel, Nicolas Brüggemann, Vicky M. Temperton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: Root system responses to the limitation of either nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P) are well documented, but how the early root system responds to (co-) limitation of one (N or P) or both in a stoichiometric framework is not well-known. In addition, how intraspecific competition alters plant responses to N:P stoichiometry is understudied. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the effects of N:P stoichiometry and competition on root system responses and overall plant performance. Methods: Plants (Hordeum vulgare L.) were grown in rhizoboxes for 24 days in the presence or absence of competition (three vs. one plant per rhizobox), and fertilized with different combinations of N:P (low N + low P, low N + high P, high N + low P, and high N + high P). Results: Shoot biomass was highest when both N and P were provided in high amounts. In competition, shoot biomass decreased on average by 22%. Total root biomass (per plant) was not affected by N:P stoichiometry and competition but differences were observed in specific root length and root biomass allocation across soil depths. Specific root length depended on the identity of limiting nutrient (N or P) and competition. Plants had higher proportion of root biomass in deeper soil layers under N limitation, while a greater proportion of root biomass was found at the top soil layers under P limitation. Conclusions: With low N and P availability during early growth, higher investments in root system development can significantly trade off with aboveground productivity, and strong intraspecific competition can further strengthen such effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-528
Number of pages14
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Intraspecific competition
  • Nutrient stoichiometry
  • Root system responses
  • Specific root length
  • Vertical root distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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