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Effect of soil strength on root growth under different water conditions

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The objective of this study was to determine the effects of soil water and soil strength on root growth in situations where the individual effects of both of these factors were important. Three grain legumes were grown from pre-germinated seeds for five days on 50-mm compacted columns of two major soils of Sri Lanka. Four or five levels of bulk density (1.1 to 1.8 Mg.m−3) and five or six levels of matric potential (−0.02 to−2.0 MPa) were used.

Soil strength and matric potential effects on root growth were independently significant for most crop and soil combinations. Under high (wet) matric potential (>−0.77 MPa) soil conditions, the effect of soil water on root growth was evident only in its effect on soil strength. Bulk density had a significant effect on root growth independent of soil strength and matric potential in three cases.

For all crops and soils, root penetration was 80% of the maximum or greater when the average soil strength (soil water not limiting) was 0.75 MPa or less, and when the average matric potential (soil strength not limiting) was −0.77 MPa or greater (wetter). Root penetration was 20% of the maximum or less when the soil strength was greater than 3.30 MPa (soil water not limiting), and when matric potential (soil strength not limiting) was less than −3.57 MPa. The use of pre-germinated seeds, which contained imbibed water, combined with a lack of water loss from the closed chambers containing the plants is the probable cause for the very low (−3.57 MPa) matric potential that allowed root growth at 20% of the maximum.

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Yapa, L.G.G., Fritton, D.D. & Willatt, S.T. Effect of soil strength on root growth under different water conditions. Plant Soil 109, 9–16 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02197574

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Key words

  • black gram (Phaseolus mungo L.)
  • bulk density
  • matric potential
  • mung bean (Phaseolus aurens L.)
  • oxic Paleustalf
  • root penetration
  • soybean (Glycine max L. (merr.))
  • Udic Rhodustalf