Marschner Review

Plant and Soil

, Volume 372, Issue 1, pp 3-25

First online:

Interaction of aluminium and drought stress on root growth and crop yield on acid soils

  • Zhong-Bao YangAffiliated withThe Key Laboratory of Plant Cell Engineering and Germplasm Innovation, Ministry of Education, College of Life Science, Shandong University
  • , Idupulapati Madhusudana RaoAffiliated withInternational Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
  • , Walter Johannes HorstAffiliated withInstitute of Plant Nutrition, Leibniz Universität Hannover Email author 



Aluminium (Al) toxicity and drought stress are two major constraints for crop production in the world, particularly in the tropics. The variation in rainfall distribution and longer dry spells in much of the tropics during the main growing period of crops are becoming increasingly important yield-limiting factors with the global climate change. As a result, crop genotypes that are tolerant of both drought and Al toxicity need to be developed.


The present review mainly focuses on the interaction of Al and drought on root development, crop growth and yield on acid soils. It summarizes evidence from our own studies and other published/related work, and provides novel insights into the breeding for the adaptation to these combined abiotic stresses. The primary symptom of Al phytotoxicity is the inhibition of root growth. The impeded root system will restrict the roots for exploring the acid subsoil to absorb water and nutrients which is particularly important under condition of low soil moisture in the surface soil under drought. Whereas drought primarily affects shoot growth, effects of phytotoxic Al on shoot growth are mostly secondary effects that are induced by Al affecting root growth and function, while under drought stress root growth may even be promoted. Much progress has recently been made in the understanding of the physiology and molecular biology of the interaction between Al toxicity and drought stress in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) in hydroponics and in an Al-toxic soil.


Crops growing on acid soils yield less than their potential because of the poorly developed root system that limits nutrient and water uptake. Breeding for drought resistance must be combined with Al resistance, to assure that drought resistance is expressed adequately in crops grown on soils with acid Al-toxic subsoils.


Aluminum toxicity Cell-wall extension Cell-wall porosity Phytohormone Root elongation Soil acidity Water relations