Plant and Soil

, Volume 232, Issue 1, pp 51-68

First online:

The nutritional control of root development

  • Brian FordeAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Lancaster University
  • , Helena LorenzoAffiliated withBiochemistry and Physiology Department, IACR-Rothamsted

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Root development is remarkably sensitive to variations in the supply and distribution of inorganic nutrients in the soil. Here we review examples of the ways in which nutrients such as N, P, K and Fe can affect developmental processes such as root branching, root hair production, root diameter, root growth angle, nodulation and proteoid root formation. The nutrient supply can affect root development either directly, as a result of changes in the external concentration of the nutrient, or indirectly through changes in the internal nutrient status of the plant. The direct pathway results in developmental responses that are localized to the part of the root exposed to the nutrient supply; the indirect pathway produces systemic responses and seems to depend on long-distance signals arising in the shoot. We propose the term `trophomorphogenesis' to describe the changes in plant morphology that arise from variations in the availability or distribution of nutrients in the environment. We discuss what is currently known about the mechanisms of external and internal nutrient sensing, the possible nature of the long-distance signals and the role of hormones in the trophomorphogenic response.

Nitrate nutrients plasticity root development signalling trophomorphogenesis