Nitrate Uptake and Nitrogen Use Efficiency of Two Sweetpotato Genotypes during Early Stages of Storage Root Formation

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7609
  • | 2 Department of Soil Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7619

Soil N availability is an important component in storage root production of sweetpotato [Ipomoea batata (L.) Lam.]. A controlled-environment experiment was conducted to characterize effects of N availability on patterns of dry matter, nonstructural carbohydrates, and N accumulation, and to determine possible components of N use efficiency that vary between two genotypes of sweetpotato. Rooted cuttings of `Jewel' and MD810 were transplanted into pots filled with sand and kept in a growth chamber for 72 days. Plants were watered during the first 30 days with a complete nutrient solution that contained 14 mm NO3- and then for the next 42 days with one of three complete nutrient solution that contained either 2, 8, or 14 mm NO3-. At 30, 44, 58, and 72 days after transplanting, three plants from each cultivar and treatment combination were sampled and separated into leaves, stems plus petioles, fibrous roots, and storage roots. Each plant fraction was freeze-dried, weighed, ground, and analyzed for total N, soluble sugars, and starch. Availability of N in the substrate, which limited dry matter accumulation at 2 mm NO3-, was nonlimiting at 8 and 14 mm NO3-. In both genotypes, net assimilation rate, efficiency of N use (i.e., increments of dry matter accumulated per increment of N taken up), and proportion of dry matter allocated to storage roots were greater for N-stressed (2 mm NO3-) than N-replete (8 and 14 mm NO3-) plants. For the N-stressed plants, however, efficiency of N use was greater in MD810 than in `Jewel'. Although rate of NO3- uptake per unit fibrous root mass was similar in the two genotypes under the N stress treatment, MD810 had greater uptake rate than `Jewel' under nonlimiting availability of NO3- in the substrate. The increased rate of uptake under nonlimiting NO3- supplies apparently was related to enhanced rates of carbohydrate transport from shoots to roots. As tissue concentration of N declined in response to the lowest application of NO3-, shoot growth was limited prior to, and to a greater extent than, the photosynthetic rate. The resulting relative decline in sink activity of shoots thus presumably increased the availability of carbohydrates for transport to roots.

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