Plant and Soil

, Volume 415, Issue 1–2, pp 99–116 | Cite as

A new model for root growth in soil with macropores

  • Magdalena Landl
  • Katrin Huber
  • Andrea Schnepf
  • Jan Vanderborght
  • Mathieu Javaux
  • A. Glyn Bengough
  • Harry Vereecken
Regular Article


Background and aims

The use of standard dynamic root architecture models to simulate root growth in soil containing macropores failed to reproduce experimentally observed root growth patterns. We thus developed a new, more mechanistic model approach for the simulation of root growth in structured soil.


In our alternative modelling approach, we distinguish between, firstly, the driving force for root growth, which is determined by the orientation of the previous root segment and the influence of gravitropism and, secondly, soil mechanical resistance to root growth. The latter is expressed by its inverse, soil mechanical conductance, and treated similarly to hydraulic conductivity in Darcy’s law. At the presence of macropores, soil mechanical conductance is anisotropic, which leads to a difference between the direction of the driving force and the direction of the root tip movement.


The model was tested using data from the literature, at pot scale, at macropore scale, and in a series of simulations where sensitivity to gravity and macropore orientation was evaluated.


Qualitative and quantitative comparisons between simulated and experimentally observed root systems showed good agreement, suggesting that the drawn analogy between soil water flow and root growth is a useful one.


Macropores Root architecture model Root growth direction R-SWMS 



Funding by German Research Foundation within the Research Unit DFG PAK 888 is gratefully acknowledged. The James Hutton Institute receives funding from the Scottish Government. We also thank Richard Stirzaker and John Passioura (CSIRO) for helpful correspondence concerning experimental methods.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH, Agrosphere (IBG-3)JuelichGermany
  2. 2.The James Hutton InstituteDundeeUK
  3. 3.Earth and Life Institute / Environmental SciencesUniversité catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  4. 4.School of Science and EngineeringUniversity of DundeeDundeeUK

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