Root morphological/physiological modifications are important for phosphorus (P) acquisition of plants under P deficiency, but strategies differ among plant species. Detailed studies on the response of maize roots to P deficiency are limited. Nitrogen (N) form influences root morphology/physiology, and thus may influence root responses to P deficiency. This work investigated adaptive mechanisms of maize roots to low P by comparison with white lupin and faba bean supplied with two N forms. Plants were grown for 7-16 days in hydroponics with sufficient (250 µmol L(-1)) and deficient P supply (1 µmol L(-1)) under supply of NH4NO3 or Ca(NO3)2 Plant growth and P uptake were measured, and release of protons and organic acid anions, and acid phosphatase activity in the root were monitored. The results showed that P deficiency significantly decreased shoot growth while increased root growth and total root length of maize and faba bean, but not white lupin. It enhanced the release of protons and organic acid anions, and acid phosphatase activity, from the roots of both legumes but not maize. Compared with Ca(NO3)2, NH4NO3 dramatically increased proton release by roots but did not alter root morphology or physiology of the three species in response to low P. It is concluded that the N form did not fundamentally change root morphological/physiological responses of the three species to P deficiency. Morphological variation in maize and morpho-physiological modifications in white lupin and faba bean were the main adaptive strategies to P deficiency.