Intraspecific variation in nitrate absorption by turfgrasses has been studied, but differences in turfgrass root morphology, which may contribute to observed variation, have not been ascertained. This information may benefit breeding programs aimed at improving the ability of turfgrasses to absorb nitrate from low fertility soils. This study quantified root morphological traits of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.) cultivars and their nitrate uptake rates (NUR). Tiller-generated plants were grown in silica sand, mowed weekly, and watered daily with half-strength modified Hoagland's nutrient solution containing 1 mM nitrate. When 5 months old, plants were excavated, and roots washed to remove sand. The plants were then transferred to 120-mL black bottles. After nitrate depletion of the nutrient solution was monitored for 8 consecutive days, the underground portion of each plant was separated into three parts: 1) adventitious roots, 2) fibrous roots, and 3) rhizomes. Measurements of total root length, total surface area, and average diameter were made by a scanning and image analysis system. NURs were calculated from nitrate depletion data and expressed as micromoles per plant per hour. Correlation analyses were performed on these morphological traits and NUR by the Minitab program. NUR was significantly and positively correlated with the total biomass, length, and area of the three underground parts. This was attributable mainly to fibrous roots as indicated by significant and positive correlations between NUR and the total biomass, length, area, and average diameter of fibrous roots. NUR was also positively correlated with the total biomass, length, and area of adventitious roots but negatively correlated with total biomass, area, and average diameter of rhizomes.
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