Effect of soil compaction on photosynthesis and carbon partitioning within a maize–soil system
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Ashraf Tubeileh, Virginie Groleau-Renaud, Sylvain Plantureux, Armand Guckert. (1/6/2003). Effect of soil compaction on photosynthesis and carbon partitioning within a maize–soil system. Soil and Tillage Research, 71 (2), pp. 151-161.
Soil compaction is known to affect plant growth. However, most of the information regarding the effects of this factor on carbon partitioning has been obtained on young plants while little is known about the evolution of these effects with plant age. The objective of this work was to investigate how soil compaction affects carbon assimilation, photosynthate partitioning and morphology of maize plants during vegetative growth up to tassel initiation. A pressure was applied on moist soil to obtain a bulk density of 1.45 g cm−3 (compacted soil (CS) treatment) while the loose soil (LS) treatment (bulk density of 1.30 g cm−3) was obtained by gentle vibration of soil columns. Plants were grown in a growth chamber for 3–6 weeks and carbon partitioning in the plant–soil system was evaluated using pulse-labelling techniques. Soil compaction greatly hampered root elongation and delayed leaf appearance rate, thereby decreasing plant height, shoot and root dry weights and leaf area. The increase in soil bulk density decreased carbon assimilation rate especially in early growth stages. The main effect of soil compaction on assimilate partitioning occurred on carbon exudation, which increased considerably to the detriment of root carbon. Furthermore, soil microbial biomass greatly increased in CS. Two hypotheses were formulated. The first was that increasing soil resistance to root penetration induced a sink limitation in roots and this increased carbon release into the soil and resulted in a root feedback that regulated carbon assimilation rate. The second hypothesis relies on soil–plant water relations since, due to compaction, the pore size distribution has to be considered. In a compacted soil, the peak of the pore size distribution curve is shifted towards the small pore size. The volume of small pores increases and the unsaturated conductivity decreases substantially, when compared to non-compacted soil. Due to small hydraulic conductivity, the inflow into the roots is well below optimum and the plant closes stomata thus reducing carbon assimilation rate. The effects of soil compaction persisted with plant age although the difference between the two treatments, in terms of percentage, decreased at advanced growth stages, especially in the case of root parameters.
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