Britto, D. T., Balkos, K. D., Becker, A., Coskun, D., Huynh, W. Q. and Kronzucker, H. J. 2014. Potassium and nitrogen poising: Physiological changes and biomass gains in rice and barley. Can. J. Plant Sci. 94: 1085-1089. Soil nitrogen, potassium, and water are three of the most important factors influencing, often interdependently, the growth of plants. Maximizing plant growth is not simply a matter of maximizing the availability of these and other nutrients; indeed, excess supply can be deleterious to plant performance. Rather, optimal performance may come about by adjusting the supply of each of the disparate factors required for plant growth, not only individually, but in relation to one another. In our work investigating the nutritional maximization of plant growth, we have found that altering the ratios of N and K provided to seedlings of cereal grasses can result in very substantial increases in vegetative biomass accrual, e.g., >220% of low-K controls, in short-term studies with rice, the world's most important cereal grain, and even greater gains in grain yield, in the longer term. Hence, the findings in our laboratory are of direct relevance to the aim of NSERC's Green Crop Network, which was to contribute to the amelioration of climate change by improvement of carbon capture and sequestration in crop plants. In addition, these findings may help to increase the world's food supply, the security of which is sometimes at odds with proposed means to thwart climate change. Our work in this area has also led to a potential breakthrough of a more fundamental sort in plant nutritional biology, which may in itself have important practical implications: evidence that aquaporin-type transport proteins conduct rapid NH3 fluxes into roots at toxic levels of external ammonia/ammonium.
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