Increasing the sensitivity of the N-15 root bioassay technique: Suggested procedures

Ulrika Rosengren, D Sleep, H E Jones, Gunnar Thelin

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7 Citations (SciVal)


The diagnosis of tree nutrient demand for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) is possible using a root bioassay with excised roots, to measure the rate of uptake of the corresponding isotope. In this study, Norway spruce (Picea abies) roots were used to test the uptake response in roots of different diameter. The 15 N bioassay has been developed to test for nitrogen demand by plants, where high 15 N uptake demonstrates nitrogen limitation. Sometimes sample variability may mask potential treatment differences, but we have shown that when the fine root fraction of <1 mm diameter is selected rather than the whole root, the sensitivity can be significantly increased. Roots of different diameters revealed a 2-50 fold difference in the response to the N bioassay. If samples are restricted to the fine roots, the method is also more comparable to the bioassays for P and K.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2363-2373
JournalCommunications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis
Issue number15-16
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Plant Ecology and Systematics (Closed 2011) (011004000), Chemical Engineering (011001014)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology


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