Appropriate nitrogen application enhances saponin synthesis and growth mediated by optimizing root nutrient uptake ability

  • Wei, Wei (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University) ;
  • Ye, Chen (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University) ;
  • Huang, Hui-Chuan (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University) ;
  • Yang, Min (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University) ;
  • Mei, Xin-Yue (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University) ;
  • Du, Fei (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University) ;
  • He, Xia-Hong (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University) ;
  • Zhu, Shu-Sheng (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University) ;
  • Liu, Yi-Xiang (State Key Laboratory for Conservation and Utilization of Bio-Resources in Yunnan, Yunnan Agricultural University)
  • Received : 2018.10.09
  • Accepted : 2019.04.11
  • Published : 2020.07.15


Background: Cultivation of medicinal crops, which synthesize hundreds of substances for curative functions, was focused on the synthesis of secondary metabolites rather than biomass accumulation. Nutrition is an important restrict factor for plant growth and secondary metabolites, but little attention has been given to the plasticity of nutrient uptake and secondary metabolites synthesis response to soil nitrogen (N) change. Methods: Two year-field experiments of Sanqi (Panax notoginseng), which can synthesize a high level of saponin in cells, were conducted to study the effects of N application on the temporal dynamics of biomass, nutrient absorption, root architecture and the relationships between these parameters and saponin synthesis. Results: Increasing N fertilizer rates could improve the dry matter yields and nutrient absorption ability through increasing the maximum daily growth (or nutrient uptake) rate. Under suitable N level (225 kg/ha N), Sanqi restricted the root length and surface and enhanced the root diameter and N uptake rate per root length (NURI) to promote nutrient absorption, but the opposite status of Sanqi root architecture and NURI was found when soil N was deficient. Furthermore, increasing N rates could promote the accumulation of saponin in roots through improving the NURI, which showed a significant positive relationship with the content of saponin in the taproots. Conclusion: Appropriate N fertilizer rates could optimize both root architecture and nutrient uptake efficiency, then promote both the accumulation of dry matter and the synthesis of saponins.


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