Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Department name when degree awarded

Plants, Soils, and Biometeorology


Bruce Bugbee


The long-term effects of low and high NH4+/ NO3- uptake ratios in a system with rigorous control of pH and nitrogen concentration are poorly understood. In two replicate studies, two cultivars of wheat (Triticum aestivum) were grown to maturity with three NH4+/ NO3- ratios in hydroponic solution: 0/100, 25/75, and 85/15%. Nitrogen was controlled at ample levels throughout the 70-d life cycle and pH was controlled at 5.8 ± 0.2. An equimolar ratio of NH4+ to Cl- was used to facilitate charge balance. Nitrogen consumption and transpiration were measured daily. Flag leaves were analyzed at 10-d intervals for total nitrogen, NO3--N, and essential elements. Essential nutrient elements in the biomass and seeds were measured at harvest. Yield components , nitrogen recovery, and nitrogen assimilation were calculated. There was no difference between the NO3- only (0/100) and the low NH4+ (25/75) treatments . The high NH4+ treatment (85/15) did not reduce vegetative biomass, but decreased seed yield and harvest index by 20%. The decrease was associated with a 23% reduction in seed number head-1. The high NH4+ treatment increased percent root mass by 50% and percent sterile heads by 800%, but increased assimilated N in the seeds by 30% and in the biomass by 130%. Supplemental additions of K were effective in preventing the reduction of K concentration in the wheat tissues typically caused by high NH4+, but the high NH4+ treatment decreased the concentrations of Ca, Mn, and Zn, and increased the concentrations of S, P, Fe, and B in the wheat tissue . The uptake of Mg and Cu was similar among all three treatments. Chloride concentrations in the flag leaves increased from 0.8% in the NO3- only treatment to 2.0% in the two NH4+ treatments. This research indicates that hydroponic wheat can be grown to maturity with high levels of NH4+ with a small reduction in grain yield.