Journal of Plant Growth Regulation

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 247–260 | Cite as

The Influence of Steep Slopes on Root System Development

  • Donato Chiatante
  • Stefania G. Scippa
  • Antonino Di Iorio
  • Maria Sarnataro
Thematic Article


Mechanical forces active on steep slopes tend to overturn plants, which respond by developing a specific asymmetrical architecture in the root system. This asymmetric architecture is the consequence of preferential lateral root emergence and elongation in the up-slope and down-slope directions. Root systems show a normal symmetrical architecture when the same species is grown on plane soil. The asymmetrical root architecture on steep slopes seems to increase the plant's stability by modifying the distribution of mechanical forces into the soil. This hypothesis is supported by the observation that lateral roots developing in the up-slope or down-slope directions present considerable anatomical modifications in shape and tissue-organization compared with lateral roots from plants growing on plane soil.


Root System Lateral Root Root Trait Tension Wood Root System Architecture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank the Ph.D students Solena Sciandra, Alessia Baraldi, and Monica De loanni for their contribution to this work. A special recognition for the help of Dot. Michel Curtet for the digital representation of the root system apparatus during his visit to the University of Molise.


  1. 1.
    Barlow, PW 1994The origin, diversity and biology of shoot-borne roots.Davis, TDHaissig, BE eds. Biology of adventitious root formationPlenum PressNew York123Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Beckman, T, Burssen, S, Inzè, D 2001The peri-cell-cycle in Arabidopsis.J Exp Bot52403411Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Blakely, LM, Evans, TA 1979Cell dynamics studies on the pericycle of radial roots.Plant Sci Lett147983CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Blakely, LM, Durham, M, Evans, TA, Blakely, RM 1982Experimental studies on lateral root formation in radish seedling roots. I. General methods, developmental stages, spontaneous formation of laterals.Bot Gaz143341352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Champagnat, M, Baba, J, Delaunay, M 1974Corrèlations entre le pivot et ses ramification dans le système racinaire de jeunes chènes cultives sous un brouillard nutritive.Rev de Cytologie et Biol Veg37407418Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Charleton, WA 1991Lateral root initiation.Waisel, YEshel, AKafkafi, U eds. Plant roots: The hidden halfMarcel DekkerNew York103128Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Chiatante, D, Sarnataro, M, Fusco, S, Di Iorio, A, Scippa, GS 2003Modification of root0 morphological parameters and root architecture in seedlings of Fraxinus ornus L and Spartium junceum L. Growing on slopes.Plant Biosystems(in press)(in press)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Coutts, MP 1983aDevelopment of the structural root system of Sitka spruce.Forestry56156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Coutts, MP 1983bRoot architecture and tree stability.Plant Soil71171188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Coutts, MP 1986Components of tree stability in sitka spruce on peaty gley soil.Forestry59173197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Coutts, MP, Walker, C, Burnand, AC 1990Effects of establishment method on root form lodgepole pine and sitka spruce and on the production of adventitious roots.Forestry63143159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Coutts, MP, Nicoll, BC 1991Orientation of the lateral roots of trees. Upward growth of surface roots and deflection near the soil surface.New Phytol119227234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Coutts, MP, Nilesen, CCN, Nicoll, BC 1999The development of symmetry, rigidity and anchorage in the structural root system of conifers.Plant Soil217115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Crook, MJ, Ennos, AR 1994Stem and root characteristics associated with lodging resistance in four winter wheat cultivars.J Agric Sci123167174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Crook, MJ, Ennos, AR 1996The anchorage mechanics of deep root larch, L. europea, L. japonica.J Exp Bot4715091517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Doerner, P 1994Cell cycle regulation in plants.Plant Physiol106823827PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Doerner, P, Jorgensen, J-E, You, R, Steppuhn, J, Lamb, C 1996Control of root growth and development by cyclin expression.Nature380520523PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dolan, L, Janmaat, K, Willemsen, V, Linstead, P, Poethig, S 1993Cellular organization of Arabidopsis thaliana root.Development1197184PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Dubrovsky, JG, Doerner, PW, Colon-Cormona, A, Rost, TL 2000Pericycle cell proliferation and lateral root initiation in Arabidopsis.Plant Physiol12416481657PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Dubrovsky, JG, Rost, TL, Colon-Cormona, A, Doerner, PW 2001Earl primordium morphogenesis during lateral root initiation in Arabidopsis thaliana.Planta2143036PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Duparque A, Pellerin S. 1994. An attempt to model the mechanism of root lodging resistance in maize. In: Proceedings of 3rd Congress of European Society for Agronomy, Albano-Padova (Italy), Sept. 18.22, pp 360–361.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Ennos, AR 1994The biomechanics of root anchorage.Biomimetics2129137Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Ferreira, PCG, Hemerly, AS, Engler, JA, Montagu, MV, Engler, G, Inze, D 1994Developmental expression of the Arabidopsis cyclin cyc At.Plant Cell617631774PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Fitter, AH, Ennos, AR 1989Architectural constraints to root system function.Aspects Appl Biol21522Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Fitter, AH 1991The ecological significance of root system architecture: an economic approach.Atkinson, D eds. Plant root growth, an ecological perspective. Special publication no. 10 of the British Ecological Society.Blackwell Scientific PublicationsOxford229243Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Spats H-C, Speck T, editors. pp 71–82.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Gilroy S, Massa G, Fasano J, Swanson S. 2001. The interaction of tropism in obstacle avoidance by roots. In: Proceedings of the 6th Symposium of the International Society of Root Research pp 34–35.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Gladish, DK, Rost, TL 1993The effects of temperature on primary root growth dynamics and lateral root distribution in garden pea (Pisum sativum L. cv Alaska).Env Exp Bot33243258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Goodman, AM, Ennos, AR 1996A comparative study of the response of the roots and shoots of sunflower and maize to mechanical stimulation.J Exp Bot4714991507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Goodman, AM, Ennos, AR 1997The response of field-grown sunflower and maize to mechanical report.Ann Bot79703711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Goodman, AM, Ennos, AR 1999The effect of soil bulk density on the morphology and anchorage mechanics of the root systems of sunflower and maize.Ann Bot83293302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Goodman, AM, Ennos, AR 2001The effects of mechanical stimulation on the morphology and mechanics of maize roots grown in an aerated nutrient solution.Int J Plant Sci162691696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Gray, DH, Sotir, RB 1996Biotechnical and soil bioengineering slope stabilization.WileyNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Guigo, E, Herbert, Y 1997Relationship between mechanical resistance of the maize root system and root morphology, and their genotypic and environmental variation.Maydica42265274Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Hathaway, RL, Penny, D 1975Root strength in some Populus and Salix clones.New Zealand J Bot13333341Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Hemerly, AS, Ferreira, P, de Almeida Engler, J, Van Montagu, M, Engler, G, Inzé, D 1993cdc 2a expression in Arabidopsis is linked with competence for cell division.Plant Cell517111723PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Herbert, Y, Barriere, Y, Berthouleau, . 1992Root lodging resistance in forage maize: genetic variability of root system and aerial part.Maydica37173183Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Hepworth, DG, Vincent, JFV 1999The growth response of stems of genetically modified tobacco plants (Nicotiana tabacum “Samsun”) to flexural stimulation.Ann Bot833943CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Hinchee, MAW, Rost, TL 1992The control of lateral root development in cultured pea seedlings: III spacing intervals.Bot Acta105127131Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Jourdan, C, Rey, H 1997Modelling and simulation of architecture and development of the oil-palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.) root system.Plant Soil190217233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Keller, B, Lamb, CJ 1989Specific expression of a novel cell wall hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein gene in lateral root initiation.Gene Dev316391646PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Kerk, NM, Jiang, K, Feldman, LJ 2000Auxin metabolism in the root apical meristem.Plant Physiol122925932PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Kozlowski, TT, Kramer, PJ, Pallardy, SG 1991The physiological ecology of woody plants.Academic Press, INC.San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Laskowski, MJ, Williams, ME, Nusbaum, HC, Sussex, IM 1995Formation of lateral roots meristems is a two-stage process.Development12133033310PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Lovel, PH, White, J 1986Anatomical changes during adventitious root formation.Jackson, MB eds. New root formation in plant and cuttings.Nidjhoff, DordrechtMarlines311140Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Lyford WH. 1980. Development of the root system of northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.) Harvard Forest Paper 21.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Malamy, J, Benfey, PN 1997aDown and out in Arabidopsis: the formation of lateral roots.Trends Plant Sci2390395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Malamy, J, Benfey, PN 1997bOrganization and cell differentiation in lateral roots of Arabidopsis thaliana.Development1243344Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Malamy, J, Ryan, K 2001Environmental regulation of lateral root initiation in Arabidopsis.Plant Physiol127899909PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Martinez, MC 1992Spatial pattern of cdc2 expression in relation to meristem activity and cell proliferation during plant development.Proc Natl Acad Sci8973607364PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Materechera, SA, Dexter, AR, Alston, AM 1991Penetration of very strong soils by seedling roots of different plant species.Plant Soil1353141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Mickovski S. 2001. The root symmetry and architecture in two Pinus species grown in different environmental conditions. In: Proceedings of the 6th Symposium of the International Society of Root Research, pp 454–455.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Nicoll, BC, Ray, D 1996Adaptive growth of tree root systems in response to wind action and soil conditions.Tree Physiol16891898PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Nicoll, BC 2000The mechanical consequences of adaptive growth in roots.Spats, H-CSpeck, T eds. Proceedings of the 3rd Plant BiomechanicsThieme Verlag-StuttgartNew York213216Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Niklas, KJ, Molina-Freaner, F, Tinoco-Ojanguren, C, Paolillo Jr, DJ 2000Wood biomechanics and anatomy of Pachicereus pringlei.Am J Bot87469481PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    O'Loughlin CL, Ziemer RR. 1982. The importance of root strength and deterioration rates upon edaphic stability in steepland forests. In: Carbon uptake and allocation in subalpine ecosystems as a key to management. Proceedings of an International Union of Forest Research Organization Workshop. P.I. 107-00 Ecology of subalpine zones, August 2–3, Oregon State University Corvallis, OR, USA. Warring RH, editors. pp 70–78.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Pagés L. 2001. Modelling the root system architecture as a tool to study its development. In: Proceedings of the 6th Symposium of the International Society of Root Research, pp 184–185.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Peterson, RL, Peterson, CA 1986Ontogeny and anatomy of lateral roots.Jackson, MB eds. New root formation in plants and cuttings.MartinusNijhoff230Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Phillips CJ, Marden M, Pearce AJ. 1990. Effectiveness of reforestation in prevention and control of landsliding during large cyclonic storms. In: Proceedings of International Union of Forest Research Organization XIX World-Congress, vol. 1, pp 340–350.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Plomìon, C, Leprovost, G, Stokes, A 2001Wood formation in trees.Plant Physiol12715131533PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    Richardson, A 2000Coarse root elongation rate estimates for interior Douglas-fir.Tree Physiol20825829PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Schiechtl, HM 1980Bioengineering for land reclamation and conservation.University of Alberta PressEdmonton, Canada404Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Sidle, R 1991A conceptual model of changes in root cohesion in response to vegetation management.J Envir Qual204352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. 64.
    Stokes, A, Fitter, AH, Coutts, MP 1995Responses of young trees to wind and shading: effect on root architecture.J Exp Bot4611391146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Stokes, A, Ball, J, Fitter, AH, Brain, P, Coutts, MP 1996An experimental investigation of the resistance of model root systems to uprooting.Ann Bot78415421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Stokes, A, Guitard, D 1997Tree root response to mechanical stress.Biology of root formation.Plenum PressNew York227236Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Stokes, A, Nicoll, BC, Coutts, MP, Fitter, AH 1997Responses of young Sitka spruce clones to mechanical perturbation and nutrition: effects on biomass allocation, root development, and resistance to bending.Can J For Res2710491057CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. 68.
    Telewski, FW, Jaffe, MJ 1986Thigmorphogenesis: anatomical, morphological and mechanical analysis of genetically different.Physiol Plant66219226PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. 69.
    Thaler, P, Pagés, L 1996Root apical diameter and root elongation rate of rubber seedlings (Hevea brasiliensis) show parallel responses to photoassimilate availability.Physiol Plant97365371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Timell, TE 1986Compression wood in Gymnospermes.Heidelberg: Springer VerlagBerlinGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Torrey, JG 1986Endogenous and exogenous influences on the regulation of lateral root formation.Jackson, MB eds. New root formation in plants and cuttings.MartinusNijhoff3266Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Watson, A, Phillips, C, Marden, M 1999Root strength, growth, and rate of decay: root reinforcement changes of two tree species and their contribution to slope stability.Plant Soil2173947CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Wycoff, KL, Powell, PA, Gonzales, RA, Corbin, DR, Lamb, C, Dixon, RA 1995Stress activation of a bean hydroxyprolin-rich glycoprotein is superimposed on a pattern of tissue-specific developmental expression.Plant Physiol1094152PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. 74.
    Wu, TH, Erb, R 1988Study of soil-root interaction.J Geotech Eng11413511375CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donato Chiatante
    • 1
  • Stefania G. Scippa
    • 2
  • Antonino Di Iorio
    • 2
  • Maria Sarnataro
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche, Fisiche e Matematiche, Dipartimento di Biologia Strutturale e FunzionaleUniversità degli Studi dell'Insubria, via Valleggio 11, 22100 ComoItalia
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie per l'Ambiente ed il TerritorioUniversità degli Studi del Molise, Via Mazzini 8, 86170 IserniaItalia

Personalised recommendations