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Tracing uptake and translocation of phosphorus in wheat using oxygen isotopes and mathematical modelling (2021)

Bauke S., Schnepf A., Sperber C., Orlowski N., Lewandowski H., Selzner T., Tamburini F., Amelung W.

New Phytologist, 230 (5), 1883-1895



Understanding P uptake in soil–plant systems requires suitable P tracers. The stable oxygen isotope ratio in phosphate (expressed as δ18OP) is an alternative to radioactive labelling, but the degree to which plants preserve the δ18OP value of the P source is unclear. We hypothesised that the source signal will be preserved in roots rather than shoots.

In soil and hydroponic experiments with spring wheat (Triticum aestivum), we replaced irrigation water by 18O-labelled water for up to 10 d. We extracted plant inorganic phosphates with trichloroacetic acid (TCA), assessed temporal dynamics of δ18OTCA-P values after changing to 18O-labelled water and combined the results with a mathematical model.

Within 1 wk, full equilibration of δ18OTCA-P values with the isotope value of the water in the growth medium occurred in shoots but not in roots. Model results further indicated that root δ18OTCA-P values were affected by back transport of phosphate from shoots to roots, with a greater contribution of source P at higher temperatures when back transport was reduced.

Root δ18OTCA-P partially preserved the source signal, providing an indicator of P uptake sources. This now needs to be tested extensively for different species, soil and climate conditions to enable application in future ecosystem studies.

Sustainable Subsoil Management