The ratio of carbon accumulation to transpiration, W , of wheat ( Triticum aestivum L.) seedlings increased with increasing soil strength, measured as soil penetrometer resistance, and this was already apparent at the two leaf stage. The ratio was negatively correlated with carbon isotope discrimination, in accord with theory. This means that decrease in intercellular partial pressure of CO 2 accounted for an important part of the increase in W with increasing soil strength. Despite a lower CO 2 concentration in the leaves at high soil strength, assimilation rate per unit leaf area was enhanced. Greater ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase activity confirmed that photosynthetic capacity was actually increased. This pattern of opposite variation of assimilation rate and of stomatal conductance is unusual. The ratio of plant carbon mass to leaf area increased markedly with increasing soil strength, mainly because of a greater investment of carbon into roots than into shoots. A strong negative correlation was found between this ratio and carbon isotope discrimination. For a given increase in discrimination, decrease in carbon mass per leaf area was proportionally larger than decrease in assimilation rate, so that relative growth rate was positively correlated to carbon isotope discrimination.
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