Adaptive attributes of tropical forage species to acid soils. I. Differences in plant growth, nutrient acquisition and nutrient utilization among C4 grasses and C3 legumes
Rao, I.M.; Ayarza, M.A.; Garcia, R.
Journal of Plant Nutrition 18(10): 2135-2155
ISSN/ISBN: 0190-4167 DOI: 10.1080/01904169509365052
Low supply of nutrients is a major limitation of forage adaptation and production in acid soils of the tropics. A glasshouse study was conducted to find differences in plant growth, nutrient acquisition and use, among species of tropical forage grasses (with C4 pathway of photosynthesis) and legumes (with C3), when grown in two acid soils of contrasting texture and fertility. Twelve tropical forage legumes and seven tropical forage grasses were grown in sandy loam and clay loam Oxisols at low and high levels of soil fertility. After 83 days of growth, dry matter distribution among plant leaves, stems, and roots, leaf area production, shoot and root nutrient composition, shoot nutrient uptake, and nutrient use efficiency were measured. Soil type and fertility affected biomass production and dry matter partitioning between roots and shoots. The allocation of dry matter to root production was greater with low soil fertility, particularly in sandy loam. The grasses responded more than the legumes to increased soil fertility in both shoot and root biomass production. Leaf area production and the use of leaf biomass for leaf expansion (specific leaf area) were greater in legumes than in grasses, irrespective of soil type and fertility. But soil type affected shoot biomass production and nutrient uptake of the grasses more than those of the legumes. There were significant interspecific differences in terms of shoot nutrient uptake. The grasses were more efficient than legumes in nutrient use (grams of shoot biomass produced per gram of total nutrient uptake) particularly for nitrogen (N) and calcium (Ca).