Senescence and N release from clover roots following permanent excision of the shoot
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Six to seven week old red clover plants (Trifolium pratense L. cv Merviot) were used to investigate the time-course of root senescence following complete and permanent excision from the shoot. Plants were grown in sand culture watered with nutrient solution. After excision of the shoots, roots were left in situ and sampled over a period of up to 42 days. Respiration rate began to decrease immediately after excision, reaching 50% of its initial value after 24 h. The decline involved a reduction in the capacity of the respiratory pathways as measured in the presence of an uncoupler (FCCP) and exogenous glucose. The reduction in respiration could be prevented by supplying 100 mM sucrose to excised roots incubated in nutrient solution at the time of excision, but not 4–5 days after excision. There was a steady reduction in the protein and soluble sugar concentrations from the time of excision and a smaller reduction in starch. Free amino acid concentrations increased immediately after excision, but the temporal dynamics differed between individual amino acids. The total concentration of free amino acids rose to a maximum value 6–13 days after excision, before declining. Under these conditions roots survived for a remarkably long period of time. Depending on the experiment, cell viability, measured as the percentage of cells with positive turgor, was unchanged for at least 20 days, and complete loss of viability was not observed until 34–42 days after excision. There was no appreciable loss of N from the roots until cell viability declined significantly. The potential implications of these results for modelling and management of N cycling in cropping systems is discussed briefly.
KeywordsCarbohydrate supply Clover Root excision Nitrogen Respiration Root senescence
We are grateful to Jacqui Blackwood, Eddie Stevenson and John Parker for technical assistance and to Karl Oparka for the loan of the pressure probe. SAC receives financial support from the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department.
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