, Volume 108, Issue 2, pp 245-251

Tillage and N fertilization effects on maize root growth and root:shoot ratio

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Abstract

Two methods for estimating the size of the maize (Zea mays l.) root system from soil cores taken in the field were compared. The spatially weighed block method of estimation accounted for variation in root density by using 18 samples per plant which varied in distance from plant and soil depth. This method was compared to an estimation which averaged all of the 18 samples together. Both methods gave surprisingly similar estimates for total root growth.

Increased root growth in the surface soil layers, due to tillage and N fertilization, did not impact on the estimation of total root growth. Total root length remained unchanged or increased with N fertilization, while root weight remained the same or decreased. Root mass per length decreased with N fertilization.

The estimated size of the root system was used to calculate root:shoot weight ratios. The largest root:shoot ratio was found in the vegetative stage and decreased throughout the rest of the season. In this field experiment, the estimated size of the root system at 8 weeks after planting was not significantly different from the size at silking or harvest. Nitrogen fertilization significantly decreased the root:shoot weight ratio. However, tillage did not significantly change the ratio.