Nitrogen accumulation in the apical spikelet of the top primary branch (superior spikelet) and the second spikelet of the lowest secondary branch (inferior spikelet), of the ear on the main stem of rice plant (Oryza sativa L. var. Sasanishiki) was characterized during grain filling. In the superior spikelet, the accumulation of dry matter and nitrogen which started immediately after lowering, proceeded rapidly, and reached the maturation level at 20 d after heading. In the inferior spikelet, however, the amount of dry matter and nitrogen accumulation was minimal immediately after flowering. It increased when grain filling of the superior spikelet was almost completed. 15N-labeled ammonia was administered to the plants at different stages of ripening and the amount of incorporation in the spikelets was analyzed at harvest. The labeled nitrogen administered at the early stages of ripening was the main source of the labeled nitrogen incorporated in the superior spikelet. However, the labeled nitrogen incorporated in the inferior spikelet largely consisted of the labeled nitrogen administered at the late stages of ripening. When all the spikelets except for the five inferior spikelets were removed from the ear at various stages of ripening, the amount of dry matter and nitrogen accumulation increased immediately, irrespective of the stage of ripening. These results indicate that dry matter and nitrogen partitioning among spikelets of the ear is highly regulated during ripening and their accumulation in the inferior spikelets at the early stage of ripening is suppressed by some unknown factor(s) which can be eliminated by the removal of the superior spikelets.
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