, Volume 77, Issue 1, pp 15-28

Effect of soil compaction on root growth and uptake of phosphorus

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Summary

Zea mays L. andLolium rigidum Gaud. were grown for 18 and 33 days respectively in pots containing three layers of soil each weighing 1 kg. The top and bottom layers were 100 mm deep and they had a bulk density of 1200 kg m−3, while the central layer of soil was compacted to one of 12 bulk densities between 1200 and 1750 kg m−3. The soil was labelled with32P and33P so that the contribution of the different layers of soil to the phosphorus content of the plant tops could be determined. Soil water potential was maintained between −20 and −100 kPa.

Total dry weight of the plant tops and total root length were slightly affected by compaction of the soil, but root distribution was greatly altered. Compaction decreased root length in the compacted soil but increased root length in the overlying soil. Where bulk density was 1550 kg m−3, root length in the compacted soil was about 0.5 of the maximum. At that density, the penetrometer resistance of the soil was 1.25 and 5.0 MPa and air porosity was 0.05 and 0.14 at water potentials of −20 and −100 kPa respectively, and daytime oxygen concentrations in the soil atmosphere at time of harvest were about 0.1 m3m−3. Roots failed to grow completely through the compacted layer of soil at bulk densities ≥ 1550 kg m−3. No differences were detected in the abilities of the two species to penetrate compacted soil.

Ryegrass absorbed about twice as much phosphorus from uncompacted soil per unit length of root as did maize. Uptake of phosphorus from each layer of soil was related to the length of root in that layer, but differences in uptake between layers existed. Phosphorus uptake per unit length of root was higher from compacted than from uncompacted soil, particularly in the case of ryegrass at bulk densities of 1300–1500 kg m−3.