Plant growth responses to elevated atmospheric CO2 are increased by phosphorus sufficiency but not by arbuscular mycorrhizas

Iver Jakobsen, Sally E. Smith, F. Andrew Smith, Stephanie J. Watts-Williams, Signe Sandbech Clausen, Mette Grønlund

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Capturing the full growth potential in crops under future elevated CO2 (eCO2) concentrations would be facilitated by improved understanding of eCO2 effects on uptake and use of mineral nutrients. This study investigates interactions of eCO2, soil phosphorus (P), and arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis in Medicago truncatula and Brachypodium distachyon grown under the same conditions. The focus was on eCO2 effects on vegetative growth, efficiency in acquisition and use of P, and expression of phosphate transporter (PT) genes. Growth responses to eCO2 were positive at P sufficiency, but under low-P conditions they ranged from non-significant in M. truncatula to highly significant in B. distachyon. Growth of M. truncatula was increased by AM at low P conditions at both CO2 levels and eCO2×AM interactions were sparse. Elevated CO2 had small effects on P acquisition, but enhanced conversion of tissue P into biomass. Expression of PT genes was influenced by eCO2, but effects were inconsistent across genes and species. The ability of eCO2 to partly mitigate P limitation-induced growth reductions in B. distachyon was associated with enhanced P use efficiency, and requirements for P fertilizers may not increase in such species in future CO2-rich climates.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number21
Pages (from-to)6173-6186
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Copyright: The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Brachypodium distachyon
  • Medicago truncatula
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis
  • Elevated atmospheric CO2
  • Gene expression
  • Phosphate transporters
  • Plant growth
  • Plant phosphorus uptake
  • Soil phosphorus


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