Achieving a fast initial growth is crucial for legumes because grasses grow more rapidly and compete much better with forbs. In a pot experiment with a nutrient-deficient soil, we added nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and N P to pure and mixed stands of Lotus tenuis and Festuca arundinacea and investigated the effects of on plant growth, nutrient uptake and symbiotic associations with arbuscular mycorrhizae and rhizobia. Plant yield, N and P acquisition, mycorrhizal colonisation, rhizobial nodulation and root length were measured and root diameter and root surface area were calculated after two harvests. Species responded differently to specific nutrients when grown pure or mixed. Comparing pure with mixed stands in soils fertilised with P and N P, L. tenuis showed decreased shoot and particularly root biomass, whereas F. arundinacea showed increases in both biomasses. This suggests that the competitiveness of the grass with the legume increased upon P and N P addition. In mixed stands, F. arundinacea produced 51–64% of the total shoot biomass and 69–74% of the total root biomass with P and N P, respectively. Root length and root surface area were greater and the roots thinner in F. arundinacea than in L. tenuis. Addition of P and N P increased rhizobial nodulation in legume roots but decreased mycorrhizal colonisation in both plants. Supply of N does not necessarily favour grasses, whereas P supply favours legumes. Optimisation of P nutrition might help to maximise N inputs into grasslands by symbiotic N-fixation and decrease inputs of inorganic N by fertilisation.
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Vol. 67 • No. 6