It has been hypothesized that a close correlation exists between specific leaf nitrogen content (SLN, g N m-2 leaf area) and leaf carbon exchange rate (CER), and crop radiation use efficiency (RUE). This association has not been investigated previously in peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) so the objective of this research was to obtain such data under greenhouse and field conditions. In the greenhouse study differing nitrogen fertilizer treatments for a non-nodulated cultivar resulted in leaves with a wide range of SLN and CER. A strong, positive association between SLN and CER was found. In the field little variation in either SLN or CER was observed through much of the growing season in four commercial cultivars. Consistent with the observation of stability in SLN and CER, RUE based on total, intercepted solar radiation was found to be constant at 1.00 g MJ-1 through the growing season. However, the observed RUE was 29% greater than a theoretical RUE calculated assuming a uniform distribution of SLN in the canopy. One possibility is that RUE of peanuts may be enhanced by a nonuniform SLN distribution within its leaf canopy. In any event, the results of both the greenhouse and field tests showed that peanut CO2 assimilation is closely linked to leaf SLN.
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