Plant and Soil

, Volume 86, Issue 3, pp 321–331 | Cite as

Effect of soil moisture and phosphate level on root hair growth of corn roots

  • A. D. Mackay
  • S. A. Barber


Root hairs have been shown to enhance P uptake by plants growing in low P soil. Little is known of the factors controlling root hair growth. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of soil moisture and P level on root hair growth of corn (Zea mays L.). The effect of volumetric soil moistures of 22% (M0), 27% (M1), and 32% (M2) and soil (Raub silt loam, Aquic Argiudoll) P levels of, 0.81 (P0), 12.1 (P1), 21.6 (P2), 48.7 (P3), and 203.3 (P4) μmol P L−1 initially in the soil solution, on shoot and root growth, P uptake, and root hair growth of corn was studied in a series of pot experiments in a controlled climate chamber. Root hair growth was affected more by soil moisture than soil P. The percentage of total root length with root hairs and the density and length of root hairs on the root sections having root hairs all increased as soil moisture was reduced from M2 to M0. No relationship was found between root hair length and soil P. Density of root hairs, however, was found to decrease with an increase in soil P. No correlation was found between root hair growth parameters and plant P content, further suggesting P plays a secondary role to moisture in regulating root hair growth in soils. The increase in root hair growth appears to be a response by the plant to stress as yield and P uptake by corn grown at M0 were only 0.47 to 0.82, and 0.34 to 0.74, respectively, of that measured at M1 across the five soil P levels. The increase in root hair growth at M0, which represents an increase of 2.76 to 4.03 in root surface area, could offset, in part, the reduced rate of root growth, which was the primary reason for reduced P uptake under limited soil moisture conditions.

Key words

Root hair density Root hair length Root length Soil P level Soil moisture Zea mays


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Barkey K P and Rovira A D 1970 The influence of root hairs on the uptake of phosphate. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 1, 287–292.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Barrow N J, Malajczuk N and Shaw T C 1977 A direct test of the ability of vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza to help plants take up fixed soil phosphate. New Phytol. 78, 269–276.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bhat K K S and Nye P H 1973 Diffusion of phosphate to plant roots in soil. I. Quantitative autoradiography of the depletion zone. Plant and Soil 38, 161–175.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bole J B 1973 Influence of root hairs in supplying soil phosphorus to wheat. Can. J. Soil Sci. 53, 169–175.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bray R H and Kurtz L T 1945 Determination of total, organic and available forms of phosphorus in soil. Soil Sci. 59, 39–45.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Brewster J L, Bhat K K S and Nye P H 1976 The possibility of predicting solute uptake and plant growth response from independently measured soil and plant characteristics. V. The growth and phosphorus uptake of rape in soil at a range of phosphorus concentrations and a comparison of results with the predictions of a simulation model. Plant and Soil 44, 295–328.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Caradus J R 1980 Distinguishing between grass and legume species for efficiency of phosphorus use. N.Z.J. Agric. Res. 23, 75–81.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Caradus J R 1981 Effect of root hair length on white clover growth over a range of soil phosphorus levels. N.Z.J. Agric. Res. 24, 353–358.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Claassen N and Barber S A 1976 Simulation model for nutrient uptake from soil by a growing plant root system. Agron. J. 68, 961–964.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dittmer H J 1949 Root hair variations in plant species. Amer. J. Bot. 36, 152–155.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Foehse D and Jungk A 1983 Influence of phosphate and nitrate supply on root hair formation of rape, spinach and tomato plants. Plant and Soil 74, 359–368.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Hendriks L, Claassen N and Jungk A 1981 Phosphate depletion at the soil-root interface and the phosphate uptake of maize and rape. Zeit. fur Pflanzenernahrung und Bodenkunde 144, 486–499.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Itoh S and Barber S A 1983, Phosphorus uptake by six plant species as related to root hairs. Agron. J. 75, 457–461.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Itoh S and Barber S A 1983 A numerical solution of whole plant nutrient uptake for soil-root systems with root hairs. Plant and Soil 70, 403–413.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lewis D G and Quirk J P 1967 Phosphate diffusion in soil and uptake by plants. III.31P movement and uptake by plants as indicated by32P autoradiography. Plant and Soil 26, 445–453.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Mackay A D and Barber S A 1985 Soil moisture effects on root growth and phosphorus uptake by corn. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 49, (submitted).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Mackay A D and Barber S A 1985 Root growth of two corn genotypes in the field as influenced by nitrogen fertilizer. Agron. J. 76, (submitted).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Murphy J and Riley J P 1962 A modified single solution method for the determination of phosphate in natural water. Anal. Chim. Acta. 27, 31–36.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Reid C P P and Bowen G D 1979 Effects of soil moisture on V/A mycorrhiza formation and root development in Medicago. pp 211–219.In The Soil-Root Interface. Ed. J L Harley and R S Russell. Blackwell Scientific Publishers, Oxford, England.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Reid J B 1981 Observations on root hair production by lucerne, maize and perennial ryegrass grown in a sandy loam. Plant and Soil 62, 319–322.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Schenk M K and Barber S A 1979 Root characteristics of corn genotypes as related to phosphorus uptake. Agron. J. 71, 921–924.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Shierlaw J and Alston A M 1984 Effect of soil compaction on root growth and uptake of phosphorus. Plant and Soil 77, 15–28.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Silberbush M and Barber S A 1983 Prediction of phosphorus and potassium uptake by soybeans with a mechanistic mathematical model. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 47, 262–265.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Tanaka Y and Wood F W 1973 Root and root hair growth of oats: replaceability of calcium. Can. J. Bot. 51, 1655–1659.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Temple-Smith M G and Menary M C 1977 Movement of32P to roots of cabbage and lettuce grown in two soil types. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal., 8, 67–79.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Tennant D 1975 A test of a modified line intersect method of estimating root length. J. Ecol. 63, 995–1001.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Thomas G W 1982 Exchangeable cations.In Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 2. Agron. 9, 159–165. Ed. A L Page et al. Am. Soc. of Agron., Inc., Madison, Wis.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. D. Mackay
    • 1
  • S. A. Barber
    • 1
  1. 1.Agronomy DepartmentPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations