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Nitrogen use efficiency, allocation, and remobilization in apple trees: uptake Is optimized with pre-harvest N supply


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Tan, BZ, Close, DC ORCID: 0000-0001-7999-1692, Quin, PR ORCID: 0000-0002-7339-3082 and Swarts, ND ORCID: 0000-0002-4527-7658 2021 , 'Nitrogen use efficiency, allocation, and remobilization in apple trees: uptake Is optimized with pre-harvest N supply' , Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 12 , pp. 1-15 , doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.657070.

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Optimizing the utilization of applied nitrogen (N) in fruit trees requires N supply that is temporally matched to tree demand. We investigated how the timing of N application affected uptake, allocation, and remobilization within 14-year-old “Gala”/M26 apple trees (Malus domestica Borkh) over two seasons. In the 2017–2018 season, 30 g N tree-1 of 5.5 atom% 15N-calcium nitrate was applied by weekly fertigation in four equal doses, commencing either 4 weeks after full bloom (WAFB) (pre-harvest) or 1-week post-harvest, or fortnightly, divided between pre- and post-harvest (50:50 split). Nitrogen uptake derived from fertilizer (NDF) was monitored by leaf sampling before whole trees were destructively harvested at dormancy of the first season to quantify N uptake and allocation and at fruit harvest of the second season to quantify the remobilization of NDF. The uptake efficiency of applied N fertilizer (NUpE) was significantly higher from pre-harvest (32.0%) than from the other treatments (-17%). The leaf NDF concentration, an indicator of N uptake, increased concomitantly only when pre-harvest N was applied. Pre-harvest treated trees allocated more than half of the NDF into fruit and leaves and stored the same amount of NDF into perennial organs as the post-harvest treatment. Subsequent spring remobilization of NDF was not affected by the timing of N fertigation from the previous season. A seasonal effect of remobilization was observed with a decrease in root N status and a reciprocal increase in branch N status at fruit harvest of season two. These findings represent a shift in the understanding of dynamics of N use in mature deciduous trees and indicate that current fertilizer strategies need to be adjusted from post-harvest to primarily pre-harvest N application to optimize N use efficiency. This approach can provide adequate storage N to support early spring growth the following season with no detriment to fruit quality.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Tan, BZ and Close, DC and Quin, PR and Swarts, ND
Keywords: nitrogen use efficiency, 15N, remobilization (nitrogen), partitioning (nitrogen), application timing, storage (nitrogen), nitrogen uptake
Journal or Publication Title: Frontiers in Plant Science
Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN: 1664-462X
DOI / ID Number: 10.3389/fpls.2021.657070
Copyright Information:

Copyright © 2021 Tan, Close, Quin and Swarts. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (

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