, Volume 154, Issue 2, pp 151-159

Combined use of colorimetric and microelectrode methods for evaluating rhizosphere pH

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Abstract

Plant control of rhizosphere pH is important for nutrient mobilization and uptake, and also affects microbial activity and pathogens in the vicinity of the root. Limited information is available on the ability of plant species and genotypes within a species to induce pH changes in the rhizosphere. A growth chamber study was conducted to characterize patterns of pH change within the rhizosphere of selected genotypes in an alkaline environment with a balanced nutrient supply. After germination in incubators, seedlings of 32 genotypes of maize (Zea mays L.), soybean (Glycine max. L.), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.), sordan [sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.), sudangrass (Sorghum sudanese L.) hybrid], wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), oats (Avena sativa L.), and barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) were transferred into aseptic agar medium (pH 7.6) with bromocresol purple indicator. Ability of the embedded roots to induce rhizosphere pH change was followed by photographing the color change of the bromocresol purple indicator. The pH for selected genotypes at different root zones (maturation, elongation, meristematic) was also monitored by a microelectrode at 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-mm distances from the root surface. Rhizosphere acidification for selected genotypes within a species were in the order: soybean, Hawkeye>PI-54169; maize, Pioneer-3737>Pioneer-3732>CM-37; sordan, S-757>S-333; sorghum, SC-33-8-9EY≃SC-118-15E; barley, Bowman>Primus II; oats, Hytest>SD-84104. The pH patterns within the root system varied from species to species. The highest amount of acidification was found at the elongation and meristematic zones for soybean, while the highest amount of acidification was found at the maturation zone for barley under the same experimental conditions. The agar method allowed the determination of a genotype's capability to induce rhizosphere pH changes while the microelectrode method is necessary for quantifying the spatial variation of specific root developmental zones with high resolution.