The interaction between wheat roots and soil pores in structured field soil

Abstract Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) root growth in the subsoil is usually constrained by soil strength, although roots can use macropores to elongate to deeper layers. The quantitative relationship between the elongation of wheat roots and the soil pore system, however, is still to be determined. We studied the depth distribution of roots of six wheat varieties and explored their relationship with soil macroporosity from samples with the field structure preserved. Undisturbed soil cores (to a depth of 100 cm) were collected from the field and then non-destructively imaged using X-ray computed tomography (at a spatial resolution of 90 µm) to quantify soil macropore structure and root number density (the number of roots cm–2 within a horizontal cross-section of a soil core). Soil macroporosity changed significantly with depth but not between the different wheat lines. There was no significant difference in root number density between wheat varieties. In the subsoil, wheat roots used macropores, especially biopores (i.e. former root or earthworm channels) to grow into deeper layers. Soil macroporosity explained 59% of the variance in root number density. Our data suggested that the development of the wheat root system in the field was more affected by the soil macropore system than by genotype. On this basis, management practices which enhance the porosity of the subsoil may therefore be an effective strategy to improve deep rooting of wheat.

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  • Name: Zhou, Hu, Type: Corresponding Author,
  • Name: Whalley, William R, Type: Author,
  • Name: Hawkesford, Malcolm J, Type: Author,
  • Name: Ashton, Rhys W, Type: Author,
  • Name: Atkinson, Brian, Type: Author,
  • Name: Atkinson, Jonathan A, Type: Author,
  • Name: Sturrock, Craig J, Type: Author,
  • Name: Bennett, Malcolm J, Type: Author,
  • Name: Mooney, Sacha J, Type: Author,
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Article License Type cc-by
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DFW Organisation Nottingham
DFW Work Package 1
DOI 10.1093/jxb/eraa475
Date Last Updated 2021-03-04T13:59:40.232553
Evidence open (via crossref license)
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Open Access Status hybrid
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