Plant and Soil

, Volume 350, Issue 1–2, pp 253–260 | Cite as

Effects of take-all (Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici) on crop N uptake and residual mineral N in soil at harvest of winter wheat

  • Andrew J. Macdonald
  • Richard J. Gutteridge
Regular Article


Background and aims

Take-all, caused by the fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici, is the most damaging root disease of wheat. A severe attack often leads to premature ripening and death of the plant resulting in a reduction in grain yield and effects on grain quality (Gutteridge et al. in Pest Manag Sci 59:215–224, 2003). Premature death of the plant could also lead to inefficient use of applied nitrogen (Macdonald et al. in J Agric Sci 129(2):125–154, 1997). The aim of this study was to determine crop N uptake and the amount of residual mineral N in the soil after harvest where different severities of take-all had occurred.


Plant and soil samples were taken at anthesis and final harvest from areas showing good and poor growth (later confirmed to be caused by take-all disease) in three winter wheat crops grown on the same soil type on Rothamsted Farm in SE England in 1995, 2007 and 2008 (harvest sampling only). All crops received fertiliser N in spring at recomended rates (190–200 kg N ha−1). On each ocassion crops were assessed for severity of take-all infection (TAR) and crop N uptakes and soil nitrate plus ammonium (SMN) was determined. Grain yields were also measured.


Grain yields (at 85% dry matter) of crops with moderate infection (good crops) ranged from 4.3 to 13.0 t ha−1, compared with only 0.9–4.5 t ha−1 for those with severe infection (poor crops). There were significant (P < 0.05) negative relationships between crop N uptake and TAR at anthesis and final harvest. At harvest, good crops contained 129–245 kg N ha−1 in grain, straw and stubble, of which 85–200 kg N ha−1 was in the grain. In contrast, poor crops contained only 46–121 kg N ha−1, of which only 22–87 kg N ha−1 was in the grain. Positive relationships between SMN and TAR were found at anthesis and final harvest. The SMN in the 0–50 cm layer following harvest of poor crops was significantly (P < 0.05) greater than that under good crops, and most (73–93%) was present as nitrate.


Localised patches of severe take-all infection decreased the efficiency with which hexaploid wheat plants recovered soil and fertiliser derived N, and increased the subsequent risk of nitrate leaching. The risk of gaseous N losses to the atmosphere from these areas may also have been enhanced.


Winter wheat Take-all fungus Nitrogen Nitrate Ammonium Leaching Denitrification 



Take-all rating


Soil mineral N


Growth Stage (Zadocks et al. 1974)



The authors thank Ms Mariana Marczyova for technical assistance, and Ms Wendy Wilmer and Ms Xiaoyun Zhou for analytical support. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Wheat Genetic Improvement Network (WGIN) project which is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra, AR0709). Additional support was provided by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) under its Strategic Programme Grant ‘Sustainable Soil Function’, and by the Lawes Agricultural Trust.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rothamsted ResearchHarpendenUK

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