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Chapter 4 - Nutrient uptake from soils

Chapter editors: Rana Munns and Susanne Schmidt

Contributing Authors: MC Brundrett1,2, BJ Ferguson3, PM Gressshoff3, S Filleur4, U Mathesius5, R Munns1,6, A Rasmussen7, MH Ryan1, P Ryan6, S Schmidt8, M Watt5

1School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia; 2Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia; 3Centre for Integrative Legume Research, University of Queensland, 4CNRS, Gif sur Yvette, France; 5Research School of Biology, Australian National University; 6CSIRO Agriculture, Canberra; 7Centre for Plant Integrative Biology, University of Nottingham, UK; 8School of Agriculture and Food Science, University of Queensland

With acknowledgements to authors of the original edition Chapter 3, sections 3, 4 and 5 respectively: BJ Atwell, JWG Cairney and KB Walsh

Plants require at least 14 essential minerals for growth, along with water and carbohydrates. The processes by which plants convert CO2 to carbohydrate are described in Chapters 1 and 2 of this text book, and Chapter 3 explains how plants take up water from the soil and transport it to leaves. Chapter 4 describes the fundamental processes by which plants acquire minerals from the soil, with N and P as main examples. In most situations, roots do not take up minerals directly from the soil, but work in association with soil microbes that make the minerals more available to plants.

This chapter first explains the concept of plant nutrition, then describes the various root structures and symbioses with microorganisms that allow plants to take up essential nutrients. These adaptations include specialised root architecture, cluster roots, rhizosphere organisms, mycorrhizas, and symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Finally the principles of membrane transport which require ATP hydrolysis or specialised membrane transporters are described with a focus on uptake of nitrate, different forms of organic N, and phosphate.

Nutrient application to soils via fertilizers, and the ecophysiology of nutrient relations are covered in Chapter 16.

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Different nutrient acquisition strategies. (figure by S. Buckley)