Plant and Soil

, Volume 286, Issue 1–2, pp 1–6 | Cite as

The mysterious root length

  • Peter RyserEmail author

Root length has a touch of mystery to it, reflecting the difficulty in extracting fine roots from the soil, and the enormous length these roots can attain. For example, Dittmer (1937) excavated the entire root system of a single rye plant, which consisted of 13,815,672 branches and had a total length of 622 km with a surface area of 237 m2, and a total root hair length of 11,000 km. Since then, progress has been made in the methodology of assessing root length and in understanding the variation in it, but there still remains an air of mystery around root length as even the newest findings are often contradictory. Investigations have often focused on Specific Root Length (SRL), a trait which characterizes the economical aspects of a root system, stating the costs––mass––per potential return––root length. SRL has been shown to increase, decrease, or stay constant in response to nutrient limitation (Ryser 1998). Furthermore, root length does not always respond to specific ions, such as...


Root Length Root Fineness Root Diameter Root Trait Specific Root Length 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyLaurentian UniversitySudburyCanada

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