Plant and Soil

, Volume 304, Issue 1–2, pp 59–72 | Cite as

Light affects competition for inorganic and organic nitrogen between maize and rhizosphere microorganisms

  • Xingliang Xu
  • Claus Florian Stange
  • Andreas Richter
  • Wolfgang Wanek
  • Yakov Kuzyakov
Regular Article


Effects of light on the short term competition for organic and inorganic nitrogen between maize and rhizosphere microorganisms were investigated using a mixture of amino acid, ammonium and nitrate under controlled conditions. The amount and forms of N added in the three treatments was identical, but only one of the three N forms was labeled with 15N. Glycine was additionally labeled with 14C to prove its uptake by maize and incorporation into microbial biomass in an intact form. Maize out-competed microorganisms for \(^{15} {\text{NO}}_3^ - \) during the whole experiment under low and high light intensity. Microbial uptake of 15N and 14C was not directly influenced by the light intensity, but was indirectly related to the impact the light intensity had on the plant. More \(^{15} {\text{NH}}_4^ + \) was recovered in microbial biomass than in plants in the initial 4 h under the two light intensities, although more 15N-glycine was incorporated into microbial biomass than in plants in the initial 4 h under low light intensity. Light had a significant effect on \(^{15} {\text{NO}}_3^ - \) uptake by maize, but no significant effects on the uptake of \(^{15} {\text{NH}}_4^ + \) or 15N-glycine. High light intensity significantly increased plant uptake of \(^{15} {\text{NO}}_3^ - \) and glycine 14C. Based on 14C to 15N recovery ratios of plants, intact glycine contributed at least 13% to glycine-derived nitrogen 4 h after tracer additions, but it contributed only 0.5% to total nitrogen uptake. These findings suggest that light intensity alters the competitive relationship between maize roots and rhizosphere microorganisms and that C4 cereals such as maize are able to access small amounts of intact glycine. We conclude that roots were stronger competitor than microorganisms for inorganic N, but microorganisms out competed plants during a short period for organic N, which was mineralized into inorganic N within a few hours of application to the soil and was thereafter available for root uptake.


Competition Light Inorganic nitrogen Organic nitrogen Soil microorganisms Maize 1415Rhizosphere 



We kindly thank DAAD K. C. Wong Fellowships for awarding Dr. Xu a fellowship to support this study in University of Hohenheim (Germany). The German Research Foundation supported the study. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Rebecca Hood for language improvement.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xingliang Xu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Claus Florian Stange
    • 3
  • Andreas Richter
    • 4
  • Wolfgang Wanek
    • 4
  • Yakov Kuzyakov
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Soil Science and Land EvaluationUniversity of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modelling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchThe Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Department of Soil PhysicsHalle/SaaleGermany
  4. 4.Department of Chemical Ecology and Ecosystem ResearchVienna Ecology Centre University of ViennaWienAustria
  5. 5.Department of Agroecosystem ResearchUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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