|Arfin Khan, MAS; Kreyling, J; Beierkuhnlein, C; Jentsch, A: Ecotype-specific improvement of nitrogen status in European grasses after drought combined with rewetting, Acta Oecologica, 77, 118-127 (2016)|
Drought stress and associated low soil moisture can decrease N status of forage plants by reducing nitrogen (N) uptake. Conversely, rainfall and associated favorable soil moisture can improve plant N status. Yet, it is unclear to which degree drought combined with rewetting can buffer negative effects of drought on N status of forage plants and their populations. Here, we compared shoot N status (N concentration, total N uptake and C/N ratio) of four temperate grass species. Particularly, we investigated ecotypes (populations) grown from seeds from four to six European provenances/species after a drought treatment combined with rewetting (10 day harvest delay) versus continuously watered conditions for control. The experimental combination of drought and rewetting significantly increased shoot N concentration (þ96%), N uptake (þ31%); and decreased C/N ratio (46%), biomass production (29%) and C concentration (1.4%) compared to control. Shoot N status was found to be different between target grass species and also within their populations under drought combined with rewetting treatment. Presumably drought-adapted populations did not perform better than populations from moist sites indicating no evidence of local adaptation. The drought combined with rewetting event could buffer the negative effects of drought. Shoot N status of grasses after drought and rewetting even exceeded control plants. This surprising finding can potentially be explained by higher N uptake, lack of growth dilution effects or delayed plant maturation. Furthermore, within-species shoot N status responses to drought combined with rewetting event were ecotype-specific, hinting at diverse responses of different population. For rangeland management, we recommend that if a drought event occurs during the growing season, harvesting should be delayed beyond a following rain event.