Indexed on: 01 Sep '00Published on: 01 Sep '00Published in: Plant and soil
Biomass accumulation by crops depends on both light interception by leaves and on the efficiency with which the intercepted light is used to produce dry matter. Our aim was to identify which of these processes were affected for maize (Zea mays L., cv Volga) field crops grown under phosphorus (P) deficiency. In the preceding paper (Plénet et al., 2000), it was shown that P deficiency severely reduced leaf growth. In this paper, the effect of P deficiency on the radiation-use efficiency (RUE) was investigated. The experimental work was carried out in 1995, 1996 and 1997 on a long-term P fertilisation trial located on a sandy soil in the south-west of France. Three P fertilisation regimes have been applied since 1972: no- P (P0 treatment) and different rates of P fertiliser (P1.5: 1.5 times the grain P export and P3: 3 times the grain P export). These fertilisation regimes have led to contrasted levels of soil P supply. Only slight differences were observed between the P1.5 and P3 treatment for above-ground biomass accumulation and grain yield. Conversely the grain yield was significantly reduced in P0 (−11%). Above-ground biomass production was severely reduced, with the maximum difference between treatment (−60% in P0) occurring between 400 and 600 °C days after sowing. The lower biomass production in P0 was accounted for by the reduced amount of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) absorbed by the canopy, which was itself the consequence of the reduced leaf area index (see Plénet et al., 2000). The calculated RUE were found to depend on the plant stage, especially during the pre-flowering period, and on the average air temperature. No effect of P deficiency was observed on the calculated RUE, even during the period when above-ground biomass accumulation was the most severely reduced. These results obtained in field crop conditions strengthen the idea that P deficiency affects plant growth, especially leaf growth, earlier and to a greater extent than photosynthesis per unit leaf area.