Effect of free air carbon dioxide enrichment combined with two nitrogen levels on growth, yield and yield quality of sugar beet: Evidence for a sink limitation of beet growth under elevated CO2

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


The increase in atmospheric CO 2 concentration [CO 2] has been demonstrated to stimulate the growth of C 3 crops. However, little information exists about the effect of elevated [CO 2] on biomass production of sugar beet, and data from field experiments are lacking. In this study, sugar beet was grown within a crop rotation over two rotation cycles (2001, 2004) at present and elevated [CO 2] (375 μl l -1 and 550 μl l -1) in a free air CO 2 enrichment (FACE) system and at two levels of nitrogen supply [high (N2), and 50% of high (N1)], in Braunschweig, Germany. The objective of the present study was to determine the CO 2 effect on seasonal changes of leaf growth and on final biomass and sugar yield. Shading treatment was included to test whether sugar beet growth is sink limited under elevated [CO 2]. CO 2 elevation did not affect leaf number but increased individual leaf size in early summer resulting in a faster row closure under both N levels. In late summer CO 2 enrichment increased the fraction of senescent leaves under high but not low N supply, which contributed to a negative CO 2 effect on leaf area index and canopy chlorophyll content under high N at final harvest. Petioles contained up to 40% water-soluble carbohydrates, which were hardly affected by CO 2 but increased by N supply. More N increased biomass production by 21% and 12% in 2001 and 2004, respectively, while beet and sugar yield was not influenced. Concentration of α-amino N in the beet fresh weight was increased under low N and decreased under high N by CO 2 enrichment. The CO 2 response of total biomass, beet yield and white sugar yield was unaffected by N supply. Averaged over both N levels elevated [CO 2] increased total biomass by 7% and 12% in 2001 and 2004, respectively, and white sugar yield by 12% and 13%. The shading treatment in 2004 prevented the decrease in leaf area index under elevated [CO 2] and high N in September. Moreover, the CO 2 effect on total biomass (24%) and white sugar yield (28%) was doubled as compared to the unshaded conditions. It is concluded that the growth of the storage root of sugar beet is not source but sink limited under elevated [CO 2], which minimizes the potential CO 2 effect on photosynthesis and beet yield.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)228-239
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.04.2010
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Ecosystems Research - Beta vulgaris, CO2, Nitrogen, Beet quality, Sugar beet Yield