Competition for Phosphorus: Differential Uptake from Dual-Isotope—Labeled Soil Interspaces Between Shrub and Grass

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  26 Jul 1985:
Vol. 229, Issue 4711, pp. 384-386
DOI: 10.1126/science.229.4711.384


Two species of Agropyron grass differed strikingly in their capacity to compete for phosphate in soil interspaces shared with a common competitor, the sagebrush Artemisia tridentata. Of the total phosphorus-32 and -33 absorbed by Artemisia, 86 percent was from the interspace shared with Agropyron spicatum and only 14 percent from that shared with Agropyron desertorum. Actively absorbing mycorrhizal roots of Agropyron and Artemisia were present in both interspaces, where competition for the labeled phosphate occurred. The results have important implications about the way in which plants compete for resources below ground in both natural plant communities and agricultural intercropping systems.