Plant and Soil

, Volume 363, Issue 1–2, pp 139–155 | Cite as

Characterizing root nitrogen uptake of wheat to simulate soil nitrogen dynamics

  • Jianchu Shi
  • Alon Ben-Gal
  • Uri Yermiyahu
  • Lichun Wang
  • Qiang Zuo
Regular Article


Background and aims

Michaelis-Menten (MM) kinetics and a physical–mathematical (PM) model are the popular approaches to describe root N uptake (RNU). This study aimed to examine RNU and compare the two model approaches.


A hydroponic experiment (Exp.1) investigated the effects of root length, root N mass, transpiration, plant age and solution N concentration on RNU of wheat (Triticum aestivum L. cv. Jingdong 8). The two models were applied to simulate the RNU and soil N dynamics in a soil–wheat system (Exp.2), and the results were compared to the measured data.


Under the hydroponic conditions, RNU was better correlated with root N mass and transpiration than root length. The influences of solution N concentration on RNU rate per root length (MM1) and RNU rate per root N mass (MM2) were described well with MM kinetics. The kinetic parameters for MM1 changed with plant age but the parameters for MM2 were not age dependant. The description of RNU with the PM model was also independent of plant age, and was more reliable when the RNU factor decreased as a power function with the solution N concentration (PM2) than an assumed constant (PM1). In Exp.2, the root mean squared errors between the simulated and measured soil solution N concentration and the relative errors between the simulated and measured N uptake mass for MM kinetics were much larger than those for the PM model.


Both the MM and PM models successfully described RNU under the hydroponic conditions, but the PM model (especially PM2) was more reliable than the MM model in the soil–wheat system.


Root water uptake Root N mass Root length Michaelis-Menten Uptake modeling 



Days after planting








High water and high N supply


High water and low N supply


Low water and high N supply


Low water and low N supply






Root length


Root N mass


Root N uptake


Root water uptake



This research was supported partly by the Non-profit Industry Financial Program of MWR, China (200901083) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (50809071). This study was partially completed while Jianchu Shi was visiting the Gilat Research Center of Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization. We thank the Agricultural Research Organization/China Scholarship Council Joint Scholarship Scheme for this opportunity.


  1. Antonopoulos V, Wyseure G (1998) Modeling of water and nitrogen dynamics on an undisturbed soil and a restored soil after open-cast mining. Agric Water Manag 37:21–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asseng S, Richter C, Wessolek G (1997) Modelling root growth of wheat as the linkage between crop and soil. Plant Soil 190:267–277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barber SA (1995) Soil nutrient bioavailability: a mechanistic approach. 2nd ed. John Wiley, New York, pp 69–132Google Scholar
  4. Bar-Yosef B (1999) Advances in fertigation. Adv Agron 65:1–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cabon F, Cirard G, Ledoux E (1991) Modelling of the nitrogen cycle in farm land areas. Fertil Res 27:161–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dalton FN, Raats PAC, Gardner WR (1975) Simultaneous uptake of water and solutes by plant roots. Agron J 67:334–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Darrah PR, Jones DL, Kirk GJD, Roose T (2006) Modelling the rhizosphere: a review of methods for ‘upscaling’ to the whole-plant scale. Eur J Soil Sci 57:13–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Epstein E (1960) Space, barriers, and ion carriers: ion absorption by plants. Am J Bot 47:393–399CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Epstein E, Bloom AJ (2005) Mineral nutrition of plants: principles and perspectives, 2nd ed. Sinauer, SunderlandGoogle Scholar
  10. Feddes RA, Kowalik PJ, Malinka KK, Zaradny H (1976) Simulation of field water uptake by plants using a soil water dependant root extraction function. J Hydrol 31:13–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Feddes RA, Kowalik P, Zarandy H (1978) Simulation of field water use and crop yield. Pudoc Wageningen, pp189Google Scholar
  12. Gao S, Pan W, Koenig RT (1998) Integrated root system age in relation to plant nutrient uptake activity. Agron J 90:505–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gardiner DT, Christensen NW, Myrold DD (1990) A comparison of methods for estimating phosphorus uptake kinetics under steady-state conditions. J Plant Nutr 13:1079–1093CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grant RF (1991) The distribution of water and nitrogen in the soil-crop system: a simulation study with validation from a winter wheat field trial. Fertil Res 27:199–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hansen S, Jensen HE, Nielsen NE, Svendsen H (1991) Simulation of nitrogen dynamics and biomass production in winter wheat using the Danish simulation model DAISY. Fertil Res 27:245–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hopmans JW, Bristow KL (2002) Current capabilities and future needs of root water and nutrient uptake modeling. Adv Agron 77:104–175Google Scholar
  17. Ingwersen J, Streck T (2005) A regional-scale study on the crop uptake of cadmium from sandy soils: measurement and modeling. J Environ Qual 34:1026–1035PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jones JB Jr (1998) Plant nutrition manual. CRC press, Boca Raton, pp 1–54Google Scholar
  19. Jungk AO (2002) Dynamics of nutrient movement at the soil–root interface. In: Waisel Y, Eshel A, Kafkafi U (eds) Plant roots, the hidden half. Marcel Dekker, Inc, New York, pp 587–616Google Scholar
  20. Jungk A, Barber SA (1975) Plant age and the phosphorus uptake characteristics of trimmed and untrimmed corn root systems. Plant Soil 42:227–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lafolie F (1991) Modelling water flow, nitrogen transport and root uptake including physical non-equilibrium and optimization of the root water potential. Fertil Res 27:215–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Liu Z, Zhu S, Yuan H (2004) Encyclopedia of water science in China, irrigation and drainage div (in Chinese). China Water Power Press, Beijing, p 87Google Scholar
  23. Marschner H (1995) Mineral nutrition of higher plants, 2nd ed. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  24. Millington RJ, Quirk JM (1961) Permeability of porous solid. Trans Faraday Soc 57:1200–1207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Novák V, Vidovič J (2003) Transpiration and nutrient uptake dynamics in maize (Zea mays L). Ecol Model 166:99–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nye PH, Marriott FHC (1969) A theoretical study of the distribution of substances around roots resulting from simultaneous diffusion and mass flow. Plant Soil 30:459–472CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Oscarson P, Ingemarsson B, Larsson CM (1989) Growth and nitrate uptake properties of plants grown at different relative rates of nitrogen supply. II. Activity and affinity of the nitrate uptake system in Pisum and Lemna in relation to nitrogen availability and nitrogen demand. Plant Cell Environ 12:787–794CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pate JS, Layzell DB (1981) Carbon and nitrogen partitioning in the whole plant—a thesis based on empirical modeling. In: Beweley JD (ed) Nitrogen and carbon metabolism. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht, pp 94–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Perroux KM, White I (1988) Designs for disc permeameters. Soil Sci Soc Am J 52:1205–1215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pierret A, Moran CJ, Doussan C (2005) Conventional detection methodology is limiting our ability to understand the roles and functions of fine roots. New Phytol 166:967–980PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rahil MH, Antonopoulos VZ (2007) Simulating soil water flow and nitrogen dynamics in a sunflower field irrigated with reclaimed wastewater. Agric Water Manag 92:142–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rengel Z (1993) Mechanistic simulation models of nutrient uptake: a review. Plant Soil 152:161–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rengel Z, Robinson DL (1989) Competititive Al3+ inhibition of net Mg2+ uptake by intact Lolium multiflorum roots, I, Kinetics. Plant Physiol 91:1407–1413PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rengel Z, Robinson DL (1990) Modeling magnesium uptake from an acid soil, I, Nutrient relationships at the soil–root interface. Soil Sci Soc Am J 54:785–791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Robinson D (1986) Limits to nutrient inflow rates in roots and root systems. Plant Physiol 68:551–559CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Romano N, Santini A (2002) Water retention and storage: field–field water capacity. In: Dane JH, Topp GC (eds) Methods of soil analysis, Part 4. SSSA Book Ser No 5, SSSA, Madison, pp 723–729Google Scholar
  37. Roose T, Fowler AC (2004) A mathematical model for water and nutrient uptake by plant root systems. J Theor Biol 228:173–184PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schmied B, Abbaspour K, Schulin R (2000) Inverse estimation of parameters in a nitrogen model using field data. Soil Sci Soc Am J 64:533–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schoups G, Hopmans JW (2002) Analytical model for vadose zone solute transport with root water and solute uptake. Vadose Zone J 1:158–171Google Scholar
  40. Selim HM, Iskandar IK (1981) Modeling nitrogen transport and transformations in soils. Soil Sci 131:233–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shangguan Z, Shao M, Dyckmans J (2000) Nitrogen nutrition and water stress effects on leaf photosynthetic gas exchange and water use efficiency in winter wheat. Environ Exp Bot 44:141–149PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shi J, Zuo Q (2009) Root water uptake and root nitrogen mass of winter wheat and their simulations. Soil Sci Soc Am J 73:1764–1774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Shi J, Zuo Q, Zhang R (2007) An inverse method to estimate the source-sink term in the nitrate transport equation. Soil Sci Soc Am J 71:26–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Silberbush M (2002) Simulation of ion uptake from the soil. In: Waisel Y, Eshel A, Kafkafi U (eds) Plant roots, the hidden half. Marcel Dekker, Inc, New York, pp 651–661Google Scholar
  45. Silberbush M, Ben-Asher J (2001) Simulation study of nutrient uptake by plants from soilless cultures as affected by salinity buildup and transpiration. Plant Soil 233:59–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Šimůnek J, Hopmans JW (2009) Modeling compensated root water and nutrient uptake. Ecol Model 220:505–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Slatyer RO (1960) Absorption of water by plants. Bot Rev 26:331–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Spalding RF, Exner ME (1993) Occurrence of nitrate in groundwater: a review. J Environ Qual 22:392–402CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Starrett SK, Christians NE, Austin TA (1996) Comparing dispersivities and soil chloride concentrations of turfgrass-covered undisturbed and disturbed soil columns. J Hydrol 180:21–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Toride N, Leij FJ, van Genuchten MTh (1995) The CXTFIT code for estimating transport parameters from laboratory or field tracer experiments. Version 2.0 US Salinity Laboratory Res Rep 137, US Salinity, RiversideGoogle Scholar
  51. van Genuchten MTh (1980) A closed-form equation for predicting the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 44:892–898CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. van Genuchten MTh (1987) A numerical model for water and solute movement in and below the root zone. Res Rep 121, USDAARS, US Salinity Laboratory, RiversideGoogle Scholar
  53. Waisel Y, Eshel E, Kafkafi U (2002) Plant roots, the hidden half, 3rd ed. Dekker, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. Watkin EJ, Thomson CJ, Greenway H (1998) Root development and aerenchyma formation in two wheat cultivars and one triticale cultivar grown in stagnant agar and aerated nutrient solution. Ann Bot 81:349–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wild A, Woodhouse PH, Hooper MJ (1979) A comparison between the uptake of potassium by plants from solutions of constant potassium concentration and during depletion. J Exp Bot 30:697–704CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhu X, Zuo Q, Shi J (2010) Analyzing soil soluble phosphorus transport with root-phosphorus-uptake applying an inverse method. Agric Water Manag 97:291–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jianchu Shi
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Alon Ben-Gal
    • 5
  • Uri Yermiyahu
    • 5
  • Lichun Wang
    • 4
  • Qiang Zuo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Soil and Water Sciences, College of Resources and EnvironmentChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Plant–Soil Interactions, Ministry of EducationBeijingChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Arable Land Conservation (North China), Ministry of AgricultureBeijingChina
  4. 4.College of Water Conservancy and Civil EngineeringChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  5. 5.Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Research OrganizationGilat Research Centermobile post NegevIsrael

Personalised recommendations