The influence of soil type and altered lignin biosynthesis on the growth and above and belowground biomass allocation of Populus tremuloides

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Plants influence soil carbon (C) formation through the quality and quantity of C released to soil. Soil type, in turn can modify a plant's influence on soil through effects on plant production, tissue quality and regulation of soil C decomposition and stabilization. Wild-type aspen and three transgenic aspen lines expressing reduced stem lignin concentrations and/or increased syringyl (S) to guaiacyl (G) ratio lignin were grown in greenhouse mesocosms containing a sandy loam, a silt loam, or a clay loam soil for 6 months in order to examine the effects of altered lignin biosynthesis and soil type on biomass partitioning (above vs. belowground) and soil C processes. Results indicated that soil type significantly affected plant performance. Aspen grown in soils with high sand/low clay content accumulated the most total biomass, while aspen grown in soils with high clay content accumulated the least total biomass. These reductions in growth combined with specific soil characteristics led to differences among soil types in soil C formation. Transformed aspen expressing high syringyl/guaiacyl (S/G) lignin accumulated less total plant C and subsequently accumulated less aspen derived C in soil. Reduced lignin content alone in aspen did not affect plant growth or soil C formation. There were significant soil type × genetic line interactions indicating that growth and soil C formation for transgenic and wild type aspen lines varied among the different soil types. Given these interactions, future investigation needs to include long-term field studies across a range of soil types before transgenic aspen are widely planted. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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Plant and Soil