Plant and Soil

, Volume 442, Issue 1–2, pp 127–140 | Cite as

Nitrogen absorption by field-grown tea plants (Camellia sinensis) in winter dormancy and utilization in spring shoots

  • Lifeng Ma
  • Yuanzhi Shi
  • Jianyun RuanEmail author
Regular Article



The information of nitrogen uptake by subtropical, ever-green broad-leaf plants at cold temperatures of winter is very limited. The present field experiment was conducted to investigate whether 15N is taken up by tea (Camellia sinensis L.) plants in winter dormancy in the absence of active shoot growth and utilization in young spring shoots.


We applied 15N-labeled urea to soil at five different times i.e. mid-January, early February, mid-February, and early and mid-March. 15N abundance was determined in fibrous roots, twigs and mature leaves after 3, 7 and 15 days after application and in young shoots the following spring.


15N was taken up by fibrous roots and transported to above-ground tissues within 3 days after application under low winter temperatures. Earlier application significantly increased nitrogen derived from 15N-urea (Ndff) and 15N amount in young spring shoots. Ndff values and 15N amount in young spring shoots were described well by quadratic or linear regressions against soil growing degree days (GDD, T ≥ 8 °C, depth 20 cm) between 15N application and harvesting dates (R2 = 0.58–0.90, p < 0.001).


Nitrogen was absorbed and translocated in dormant tea plants in the absence of active root and shoot growth throughout the late winter until early spring. Absorbed N was stored and remobilized to support shoot growth the following spring. Soil GDD between N application and harvesting could predict Ndff and 15N amount in young spring shoots.


Low temperature N uptake Root growth Soil growing degree days Young spring shoots Winter dormancy 



Annonymous reviewers are gratefully acknowledged for their valuable and constructive suggestions. This work was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFD0200900), the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences through the Innovation Project for Agricultural Sciences and Technology (CAAS-ASTIP-2018-TRICAAS) and the Earmarked Fund for China Agriculture Research System (CARS 19).

Supplementary material

11104_2019_4182_MOESM1_ESM.docx (60 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 59 kb)


  1. Acuna-Maldonado LE, Smith MW, Maness NO, Cheary BS, Carroll BL, Johnson GV (2003) Influence of nitrogen application time on nitrogen absorption, partitioning, and yield of pecan. J Am Soc Hortic Sci 128:155–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvarez-Uria P, Körner C (2007) Low temperature limits of root growth in deciduous and evergreen temperate tree species. Funct Ecol 21:211–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andresen LC, Michelsen A (2005) Off-season uptake of nitrogen in temperate heath vegetation. Oecologia 144:585–597CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Barba DD, Rossi S, Deslauriers A, Morin H (2016) Effects of soil warming and nitrogen foliar applications on bud burst of black spruce. Trees 30:87–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. BassiriRad H (2000) Kinetics of nutrient uptake by roots: responses to global change. New Phytol 147:155–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. BassiriRad H, Caldwell MM, Bilbrough C (1993) Effects of soil temperature and nitrogen status on kinetics of 15NO3 uptake by roots of field-grown Agropyron desertorum (Fisch. ex Link) Schult. New Phytol 123:485–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bilbrough CJ, Welker JM, Bowman WD (2000) Early spring nitrogen uptake by snow-covered plants: a comparison of arctic and alpine plant function under the snowpack. Arct Antarct Alp Res 32:404–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boczulak SA, Hawkins BJ, Roy R (2014) Temperature effects on nitrogen form uptake by seedling roots of three contrasting conifers. Tree Physiol 34:513–523CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Clarke SJ, Lamont KJ, Pan HY, Barry LA, Hall A, Rogiers SY (2015) Spring root-zone temperature regulates root growth, nutrient uptake and shoot growth dynamics in grapevines. Aust J Grape Wine Res 21:479–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarkson DT, Earnshaw MJ, White P, Cooper H (1988) Temperature dependent factors influencing nutrient uptake: an analysis of responses at different levels of organization. In: Long SP, Woodward FI (eds) Symposia 42, Plants and temperature. Society for Experimental Biology, Cambridge, pp 281–309Google Scholar
  11. Dessureaultrompré J, Zebarth BJ, Burton DL, Georgallas A, Sharifi M, Porter GA, Moreau G, Leclerc Y, Arsenault WJ, Chow TL (2012) Prediction of soil nitrogen supply in potato fields using soil temperature and water content information. Soil Sci Soc Am J 76:936–949CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dong S, Scagel CF, Cheng L, Fuchigami LH, Rygiewicz PT (2001) Soil temperature and plant growth stage influence nitrogen uptake and amino acid concentration of apple during early spring growth. Tree Physiol 21:541–547CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Engels C, Marschner H (1996) Effect of root zone temperature and shoot demand on nitrogen translocation from the roots to the shoot in maize supplied with nitrate or ammonium. Plant Physiol Biochem 34:144–157Google Scholar
  14. Equiza MA, Miravé JP, Tognetti JA (2001) Morphological, anatomical and physiological responses related to differential shoot vs. root growth inhibition at low temperature in spring and winter. Ann Bot 87:67–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. FAOSTAT (2018) Crops Production - Tea, Accessed October 26, 2018
  16. Fitter AH, Graves JD, Self GK, Brown TK, Bogie DS, Taylor K (1998) Root production, turnover and respiration under two grassland types along an altitudinal gradient: influence of temperature and solar radiation. Oecologia 114:20–30CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Johnson IR, Thornley JHM (1985) Temperature dependence of plant and crop process. Ann Bot 55:1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jordan MO, Vercambre G, Gomez L, Pages L (2013) The early spring N uptake of young peach trees (Prunus persica) is affected by past and current fertilizations and levels of C and N stores. Tree Physiol 34:61–72CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Laine P, Bigot J, Ourry A, Boucaud J (1994) Effects of low temperature on nitrate uptake, and xylem and phloem flows of nitrogen, in Secale cereale L. and Brassica napus L. New Phytol 127:675–683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lamaze T, Pasche F, Pornon A (2003) Uncoupling nitrogen requirements for spring growth from root uptake in a young evergreen shrub (Rhododendron ferrugineum). New Phytol 159:637–644CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Larsen KS, Michelsen A, Jonasson S, Beier C, Grogan P (2012) Nitrogen uptake during fall, winter and spring differs among plant functional groups in a subarctic heath ecosystem. Ecosystems 15:927–939CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lea-Cox JD, Syvertsen JP, Graetz DA (2001) Springtime 15Nitrogen uptake, partitioning, and leaching losses from young bearing citrus trees of differing nitrogen status. J Am Soc Hortic Sci 126:242–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Leffler AJ, James JJ, Monaco TA (2013) Temperature and functional traits influence differences in nitrogen uptake capacity between native and invasive grasses. Oecologia 171:51–60CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Liu JW, Zhang QF, Liu MY, Ma LF, Shi YZ, Ruan JY (2016) Metabolomic analyses reveal distinct change of metabolites and quality of green tea during the short duration of a single spring season. J Agric Food Chem 64:3302–3309CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Lyr H, Garbe V (1995) Influence of root temperature on growth of Pinus sylvestris, Fagus sylvatica, Tilia cordata and Quercus robur. Trees 9:220–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Masclaux-Daubresse C, Daniel-Vedele F, Dechorgnat J, Chardon F, Gaufichon L, Suzuki A (2010) Nitrogen uptake, assimilation and remobilization in plants: challenges for sustainable and productive agriculture. Ann Bot 105:1141–1157CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Muñoz N, Guerri J, Legaz F, Primo-millo E (1993) Seasonal uptake of 15N-nitrate and distribution of absorbed nitrogen in peach trees. Plant Soil 150:263–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Okano K, Matsuo K (1996) Seasonal changes in uptake, distribution and redistribution of 15N-nitrogen in young tea (Camellia sinensis L.) plants. Jpn J Crop Sci 65:707–713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Okano K, Komaki S, Matsuo K (1994) Remobilization of nitrogen from vegetative parts to sprouting shoots of young tea (Camellia sinensis L.) plants. Jpn J Crop Sci 63:125–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pregitzer KS, King JS (2005) Effects of soil temperature on nutrient uptake. In: H BassiriRad (ed) nutrient acquisition by plants an ecological perspective. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 277–310Google Scholar
  31. Pregitzer KS, King JS, Burton AJ, Brown SE (2010) Responses of tree fine roots to temperature. New Phytol 147:105–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Radville L, McCormack ML, Post E, Eissenstat DM (2016) Root phenology in a changing climate. J Exp Bot 67:3617–3628CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Ruan JY (2005) Mineral nutrition and fertilization of tea plants. In: Yang YJ (ed) Tea cultivation in China. Shanghai Science & Technology Publishing House, Shanghai, pp 374–343Google Scholar
  34. Ruan JY, Gerendás J (2015) Absorption of foliar-applied urea-15N and the impact of low nitrogen, potassium, magnesium and sulfur nutritional status in tea (Camellia sinensis L.) plants. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 61:653–663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ruan JY, Haerdter R, Gerendás J (2010) Impact of nitrogen supply on carbon/nitrogen allocation: a case study on amino acids and catechins in green tea [Camellia sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze] plants. Plant Biol 12:724–734CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Schenker G, Lenz A, Körner C, Hoch G (2014) Physiological minimum temperatures for root growth in seven common European broad-leaved tree species. Tree Physiol 34:302–313CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Scholberg JMS, Parsons LR, Wheaton TA, McNeal BL, Morgan KT (2002) Soil temperature, nitrogen concentration, and residence time affect nitrogen uptake efficiency in citrus. J Environ Qual 31:759–768CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Solfjeld I, Johnsen O (2006) The influence of root-zone temperature on growth of Betula pendula Roth. Trees 20:320–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Steinaker D, Wilson S (2008) Phenology of fine roots and leaves in forest and grassland. J Ecol 96:1222–1229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thitithanakul S, Pétel G, Chalot M, Beaujard F (2012) Supplying nitrate before bud break induces pronounced changes in nitrogen nutrition and growth of young poplars. Funct Plant Biol 39:795–803CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Toselli M, Flore JA, Marangoni B, Masia A (1999) Effects of root-zone temperature on nitrogen accumulation by non-bearing apple trees. J Hortic Sci Biotechnol 74:118–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ueda M, Tokuchi N, Hiura T (2015) Soil nitrogen pools and plant uptake at sub-zero soil temperature in a cool temperate forest soil: a field experiment using 15N labeling. Plant Soil 392:205–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Uscola M, Villar-Salvador P, Gross P, Maillard P (2015) Fast growth involves high dependence on stored resources in seedlings of Mediterranean evergreen trees. Ann Bot 115:1001–1013CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. Wan X, Landhäusser SM, Zwiazek JJ, Lieffers VJ (1999) Root water flow and growth of aspen (Populus tremuloides) at low root temperatures. Tree Physiol 19:879–884CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Warren CR (2009) Why does temperature affect relative uptake rates of nitrate, ammonium and glycine: a test with Eucalyptus pauciflora. Soil Biol Biochem 41:778–784CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Watanabe I (1995) Effect of nitrogen fertilizer application at different stages on the quality of green tea. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 41:763–768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zhang F, Cui Z, Chen X, Ju X, Shen J, Chen Q, Liu X, Zhang W, Mi G, Fan M, Jiang R (2012) Integrated nutrient management for food security and environmental quality in China. Adv Agron 116:1–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tea Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesZhejiangChina

Personalised recommendations