Plant and Soil

, Volume 265, Issue 1–2, pp 93–100 | Cite as

Uptake of15N labeled nitrate by root systems of sweet corn, carrot and white cabbage from 0.2–2.5 meters depth

  • H. L. Kristensen
  • K. Thorup-Kristensen


Leaching of NO 3 from vegetable cropping systems can be very high compared to arable systems. This is a problem for vegetable growers in general as it decreases groundwater quality, and for organic growers in particular as the organic production is often limited by N. In a field experiment, we investigated the N uptake and root growth of three vegetables using minirhizotrons reaching 2.4 m with the purpose to study the relationship between vegetable root distribution and uptake of NO 3 from deep soil layers. NO 3 uptake was studied over a 6 d period at the end of September by injection of 15 NO 3 at four depths in the ranges: 0.2–0.8, 0.6–1.8, and 1–2.5 m under late sweet corn (Zea mays L. convar. Saccharata Koern.), carrot (Daucus carota L.), and autumn white cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. convar. capitata (L.) Alef. var. alba DC), respectively. The root depths of the three crops were 0.6, 1.3, and more than 2.4 m, respectively. Uptake of15N was close to zero from placements below root depth, and linear relationships were found between root density and15N uptake from different depths. N inflow rates (uptake per unit root length) were in the same range for all species and depths. This indicates that the very different N use efficiencies often found for vegetable crops depend on species specific differences in root development over time and space, more than on differences in N uptake ability of the single root. Thus deep rooting is important for deep N uptake. Knowledge about deep root growth enables design of crop rotations with improved N use efficiency based on re-cycling of deep soil NO 3 by vegetables.

Key words

maize minirhizotron nitrogen uptake organic vegetable production root density root depth 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barraclough P B 1989 Root growth, macro-nutrient uptake dynamics and soil fertility requirements of a high-yielding winter oilseed rape crop. Plant Soil 119, 59–70.Google Scholar
  2. Di H J and Cameron K C 2002 Nitrate leaching in temperate agroecosystems: sources, factors and mitigating strategies. Nutr. Cycl. Agroecosyst. 46, 237–256.Google Scholar
  3. Gass W B, Peterson G A, Hauck R D and Olson R A 1971 Recovery of residual nitrogen by corn (Zea mays L.) from various soil depths as measured by15N tracer techniques. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 35, 290–294.Google Scholar
  4. Greenwood D J, Gerwitz A, Stone D A and Barnes A 1982 Root development of vegetable crops. Plant Soil 68, 75–96.Google Scholar
  5. Greenwood D J, Kubo K, Burns I G and Draycott A 1989 Apparent recovery of fertilizer N by vegetable crops. Soil Sci. Plant Nutr. 35, 367–381.Google Scholar
  6. Heeraman D A and Juma N G 1993 A comparison of minirhizotron, core and monolith methods for quantifying barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and fababean (Vicia faba L.) root distribution. Plant Soil 148, 29–41.Google Scholar
  7. Kage H, Kochler M and Stützel H 2000 Root growth of cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L. botrytis) under unstressed conditions: Measurement and modelling. Plant Soil 223, 131–145.Google Scholar
  8. Kristensen H L and Thorup-Kristensen K 2004 Root growth and nitrate uptake of three different catch crops in deep soil layers. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 68, 529–537.Google Scholar
  9. Pallant E, Holmgren R A, Schuler G E, McCracken K L and Drbal B 1993 Using a fine root extraction device to quantify small diameter corn roots (≥0.025 mm) in field soils. Plant Soil 153, 273–279.Google Scholar
  10. Peterson G A, Anderson F N, Varvel G E and Olson R A 1979 Uptake of15N-labeled nitrate by sugar beets from depths greater than 180 cm. Agron. J. 71, 371–372.Google Scholar
  11. Smit A L, Booij R and van der Werf A 1996 The spatial and temporal rooting pattern of Brussels sprouts and leeks. Neth. J. Agric. Sci. 44, 57–72.Google Scholar
  12. Strebel O and Duynisveld W H M 1989 Nitrogen supply to cereals and sugar beet by mass flow and diffusion on a silty loam soil. Z. Pflanzenernähr. Bodenk. 152, 135–141.Google Scholar
  13. Thorup-Kristensen K 1993 Root development of nitrogen catch crops and of a succeeding crop of broccoli. Acta Agric. Scand., Sect. B, Soil Plant Sci. 43, 58–64.Google Scholar
  14. Thorup-Kristensen K 2001 Root growth and soil nitrogen depletion by onion, lettuce, early cabbage and carrot. Acta Hort. 563, 201–206.Google Scholar
  15. Thorup-Kristensen K and Sørensen J N 1999 Soil nitrogen depletion by vegetable crops with variable root growth. Acta Agric. Scand., Sect. B, Soil Plant Sci. 49, 92–97.Google Scholar
  16. Thorup-Kristensen K and Van den Boogaard R 1998 Temporal and spatial root development of cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L. var. botrytis L.). Plant Soil 201, 37–47.Google Scholar
  17. Thorup-Kristensen K and Van den Boogaard R 1999 Vertical and horizontal development of the root system of carrots following green manure. Plant Soil 212, 145–153.Google Scholar
  18. Van Noordwijk M and Brouwer G 1991 Review of quantitative root length data in agriculture. In Plant roots and their environment. Eds. B L McMichael and H Persson. pp. 515–525. Elsevier Science Publishers B V.Google Scholar
  19. Weaver J E and Bruner W E 1927 Root development of vegetable crops. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc. New York, USA. 351 p.Google Scholar
  20. Wiesler F and Horst W J 1994a Root growth of maize cultivars under field conditions as studied by the core and minirhizotron method and relationships to shoot growth. Z. Pflanzenernähr. Bodenk. 157, 351–358.Google Scholar
  21. Wiesler F and Horst W J 1994b Root growth and nitrate utilization of maize cultivars under field conditions. Plant Soil 163, 267–277.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HorticultureDanish Institute of Agricultural SciencesAarslevDenmark

Personalised recommendations