Plant and Soil

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 255–274

Natural (non-pathogenic) death of the cortex of wheat and barley seminal roots, as evidenced by nuclear staining with acridine orange

  • Christine M. Henry
  • J. W. Deacon

DOI: 10.1007/BF02374110

Cite this article as:
Henry, C.M. & Deacon, J.W. Plant Soil (1981) 60: 255. doi:10.1007/BF02374110


Nuclear staining with acridine orange was used to assess cell viability in the cortex of wheat and barley seminal roots from glasshouse and field experiments. Results from this method correlated well with nuclear assessments made in unstained or Feulgen-stained roots, and other evidence is presented to support the validity of the method.

The pattern of root cortex death (RCD) was similar in wheat and barley and consistent over a wide range of conditions. Behind the extending root tip and zone of nucleate root hairs, nuclei disappeared progressively from the outer five (of six) cortical cell layers of the root axes, starting in the epidermis. Stainable nuclei remained in the sixth cell layer, next to the endodermis, and in most cell layers around the bases of root laterals and in a small region immediately below the grain. The onset of cell death was apparently related more to the age of a root region than to its distance behind the root tip, and it was not closely correlated with endodermal or stelar development assessed by staining with phloroglucinol/HCl.

The rate of RCD was much faster in wheat than barley in both glasshouse and field conditions, and faster in some spring wheat cultivars than in others in the glasshouse. RCD occurred in sterile vermiculite and perlite and was not enhanced by the presence of soil microorganisms; nor was it enhanced in soil by the addition of the non-pathogenic fungal parasitesPhialophora radicicola var..graminicola orMicrodochium bolleyi.

RCD is suggested to be endogenously controlled by the amount of photosynthate reaching the cortex. Its implications for growth of soil microorganisms and especially for growth and biological control of root-infecting fungi are discussed.

Key Words

Acridine orange Barley Cerelas Microdochium bolleyi Nuclear staining Phialophora radicicola Rhizosphere Root cortex death Take-all Wheat 

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine M. Henry
    • 1
  • J. W. Deacon
    • 1
  1. 1.Microbiology DepartmentSchool of AgricultureEdinburghScotland, U.K.

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