University of Melbourne 



Title: The accumulation of terpenoid oils does not incur a growth cost in Eucalyptus polybractea seedlings

Author(s): King DJ, Gleadow RM, Woodrow IE

Source: FUNCTIONAL PLANT BIOLOGY    Volume: 33    Issue: 5    Pages: 497-505    Published: 2006

Abstract: The deployment of secondary metabolites, such as terpenes, as anti-herbivore defences is thought to be costly for plants in terms of primary metabolism. Moreover, it is assumed that the cost of this deployment is modified by resource availability. In this study we examined the impact of terpenoid oil accumulation on the growth of Eucalyptus polybractea R. T. Baker seedlings from four maternal half-sib families, under conditions of sufficient and limiting nitrogen. The foliar oil concentration measured was extremely variable, varying almost 20-fold to a maximum of 13% (w/DW). Oil concentration was higher in plants grown under high nitrogen than in low-nitrogen plants, and it was positively correlated with foliar nitrogen concentration. Oil concentration was related to maternal concentration, although this relationship was weak because of the variation encountered. The composition of oil, dominated by monoterpenes, was also extremely variable, although this variation could not be adequately explained by either nitrogen availability or the seedling parentage. Importantly, we detected no negative correlations between oil concentration and relative growth rate (RGR), net assimilation rate (NAR), or leaf nitrogen productivity (LNP). Rather, under nitrogen limiting conditions, positive correlations were detected between oil concentration and all three indices. We conclude that oil accumulation is associated with factors that promote growth and if there is a cost to oil deployment, it could not be detected using the experimental design employed here.