The effect of ambient and elevated atmospheric CO(2) on biomass partitioning and nutrient uptake of mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal pea plants grown in pots in a controlled environment was studied. The hypothesis tested was that mycorrhizae would increase C assimilation by increasing photosynthetic rates and reduce below-ground biomass allocation by improving nutrient uptake. This effect was expected to be more pronounced at elevated CO(2) where plant C supply and nutrient demand would be increased. The results showed that mycorrhizae did not interact with atmospheric CO(2) concentration in the variables measured. Mycorrhizae did not affect photosynthetic rates, had no effect on root weight or root length density and almost no effect on nutrient uptake, but still significantly increased shoot weight and reduced root/shoot ratio at harvest. Elevated CO(2) increased photosynthetic rates with no evidence for down-regulation, increased shoot weight and nutrient uptake, had no effect on root weight, and actually reduced root/shoot ratio at harvest. Non-mycorrhizal plants growing at both CO(2) concentrations had lower shoot weight than mycorrhizal plants with similar nutritional status and photosynthetic rates. It is suggested that the positive effect of mycorrhizal inoculation was caused by an enhanced C supply and C use in mycorrhizal plants than in non-mycorrhizal plants. The results indicate that plant growth was not limited by mineral nutrients, but partially source and sink limited for carbon. Mycorrhizal inoculation and elevated CO(2) might have removed such limitations and their effects on above-ground biomass were independent, positive and additive.
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