Soil strength influences wheat root interactions with soil macropores

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Atkinson, J. A., Hawkesford, M. J., Whalley, W. R., Zhou, H. and Money, S. J. 2019. Soil strength influences wheat root interactions with soil macropores. Plant, Cell and Environment. pp. 1-11.

AuthorsAtkinson, J. A., Hawkesford, M. J., Whalley, W. R., Zhou, H. and Money, S. J.

Deep rooting is critical for access to water and nutrients found in subsoil. However, damage to soil structure and the natural increase in soil strength with depth, often impedes root penetration. Evidence suggests that roots use macropores (soil cavities greater than 75 μm) to bypass strong soil layers. If roots have to exploit structures, a key trait conferring deep rooting will be the ability to locate existing pore networks; a trait called trematotropism. In this study, artificial macropores were created in repacked soil columns at bulk densities of 1.6 g cm−3 and 1.2 g cm−3, representing compact and loose soil. Near isogenic lines of wheat, Rht‐B1a and Rht‐B1c, were planted and root–macropore interactions were visualized and quantified using X‐ray computed tomography. In compact soil, 68.8% of root–macropore interactions resulted in pore colonization, compared with 12.5% in loose soil. Changes in root growth trajectory following pore interaction were also quantified, with 21.0% of roots changing direction (±3°) in loose soil compared with 76.0% in compact soil. These results indicate that colonization of macropores is an important strategy of wheat roots in compacted subsoil. Management practices to reduce subsoil compaction and encourage macropore formation could offer significant advantage in helping wheat roots penetrate deeper into subsoil.

KeywordsBulk density; Macropore; Soil compaction; Wheat; X-ray computed tomography
Year of Publication2019
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Journal citationpp. 1-11
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as bronze (free) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeDesigning Future Wheat - WP1 - Increased efficiency and sustainability
Publisher's version
Accepted author manuscript
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online10 Oct 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted18 Sep 2019

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