Balanced applications of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are known to increase grain yield of wheat but the impact of the interactions among N, P, and K on root growth and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) have not been proven. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of balanced applications of N, P, and K on the rooting patterns and NUE of wheat. Two glasshouse experiments were conducted. A rhizobox study was used to assess the impact of interactions among N, P, and K fertilisers on total root length, biomass, specific root length, root length density, N use efficiency (NUE), and N uptake efficiency of the shoots (NUpE shoot ) and N nutrition index. In a separate pot study, plants were grown to maturity to confirm the effect of the observed changes in root growth on NUE, NUpE grain , and grain/biomass yield. In the rhizobox experiment when plants were supplied with N+P+K, total root biomass increased approximately six-fold relative to plants grown with N alone or with no fertiliser. Plants exposed to N+P+K had NUpE shoot and NUE values that were five and ten times higher, respectively, than plants that received just fertiliser N. Plants supplied with N+P or N+P+K had N nutrition indices close to one (N-adequate), while plants that only received N had an index of 0.62 (N-deficient). The pot study confirmed that the changes in root length and biomass in plants exposed to N+P+K resulted in significant increases in NUE, NUpE grain , shoot biomass, and grain yield at maturity. Interactions among fertiliser N, P, and K played a critical role in influencing root biomass and length, which was associated with increases in NUE, NUpE shoot and NUpE grain .
Agriculture, Forestry, Horticulture, Fishery, Domestic Science, Nutrition