Plant and Soil

, Volume 375, Issue 1–2, pp 113–126 | Cite as

Grassland species show similar strategies for sulphur and nitrogen acquisition

  • Nicolas Legay
  • Emmanuelle Personeni
  • Sophie Slezack-Deschaumes
  • Séverine Piutti
  • Jean-Bernard Cliquet
Regular Article


Backgrounds and aims

Plant nutrition strategies play a crucial role in community structure and ecosystem functioning. However, these strategies have been established only for nitrogen (N) acquisition, and it is not known whether similar strategies hold for other macronutrients such as sulphur (S). The aim of our study was to determine whether strategies for S acquisition of some grassland species were similar to those observed for N acquisition, and to analyse the relationships between these plant strategies and the soil microbial activity involved in soil organic S mineralisation.


We used three exploitative and three conservative grass species grown with and without S fertilisation. We measured a set of plant traits, namely root and shoot biomass, leaf area, root length, N and S content, leaf nutrient use efficiency, and sulphate uptake rates in plants, and one microbial trait linked to S mineralisation, namely soil arylsulphatase activity.


The set of plant traits differentiated exploitative from conservative species. Close relationships were found between traits associated with strategies for N acquisition, namely total N content and Leaf N Use Efficiency (LNUE), and traits associated with strategies for S acquisition, namely total S content and Leaf S Use Efficiency (LSUE). Exploitative species exhibited similar or lower sulphate uptake capacities per unit of biomass than conservative species, but acquired more S through their larger root systems. Greater arylsulphatase activity was observed in the rhizosphere of the most exploitative species.


Overall, our results show that nutrient strategies defined in grassland species for N acquisition can be extended to S.


Plant N strategies Sulphur acquisition Sulphate uptake capacity Arylsulphatase 



The authors thank AF Ameline and MP Bataillé for technical assistance, and B. Amiaud and S. Lemauviel-Lavenant for helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolas Legay
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Emmanuelle Personeni
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  • Sophie Slezack-Deschaumes
    • 4
    • 5
  • Séverine Piutti
    • 4
    • 5
  • Jean-Bernard Cliquet
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, UMR Ecophysiologie Végétale Agronomie et Nutrition N, C, SCaen cedexFrance
  2. 2.INRA, UMR950 Ecophysiologie Végétale Agronomie et Nutrition N, C, SCaen cedexFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, UMR CNRS 5553Université Joseph-FourierGrenoble cedex 9France
  4. 4.Université de Lorraine, Laboratoire Agronomie et Environnement, UMR 1121Vandœuvre-lès-NancyFrance
  5. 5.INRA, Laboratoire Agronomie et Environnement, UMR 1121Vandœuvre-lès-NancyFrance
  6. 6.UMR 950 Ecophysiologie Végétale Agronomie et Nutrition NCSINRA/Université de CaenCaenFrance

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