Plant and Soil

, Volume 428, Issue 1–2, pp 67–92 | Cite as

Mechanistic framework to link root growth models with weather and soil physical properties, including example applications to soybean growth in Brazil

  • Moacir Tuzzin de Moraes
  • A. Glyn Bengough
  • Henrique Debiasi
  • Julio Cezar Franchini
  • Renato Levien
  • Andrea Schnepf
  • Daniel Leitner
Regular Article


Background and aims

Root elongation is generally limited by a combination of mechanical impedance and water stress in most arable soils. However, dynamic changes of soil penetration resistance with soil water content are rarely included in models for predicting root growth. Better modelling frameworks are needed to understand root growth interactions between plant genotype, soil management, and climate. Aim of paper is to describe a new model of root elongation in relation to soil physical characteristics like penetration resistance, matric potential, and hypoxia.


A new diagrammatic framework is proposed to illustrate the interaction between root elongation, soil management, and climatic conditions. The new model was written in Matlab®, using the root architecture model RootBox and a model that solves the 1D Richards equations for water flux in soil. Inputs: root architectural parameters for Soybean; soil hydraulic properties; root water uptake function in relation to matric flux potential; root elongation rate as a function of soil physical characteristics. Simulation scenarios: (a) compact soil layer at 16 to 20 cm; (b) test against a field experiment in Brazil during contrasting drought and normal rainfall seasons.


(a) Soil compaction substantially slowed root growth into and below the compact layer. (b) Simulated root length density was very similar to field measurements, which was influenced greatly by drought. The main factor slowing root elongation in the simulations was evaluated using a stress reduction function.


The proposed framework offers a way to explore the interaction between soil physical properties, weather and root growth. It may be applied to most root elongation models, and offers the potential to evaluate likely factors limiting root growth in different soils and tillage regimes.


Crop model Root growth model Soil compaction Soil strength Crop yield 



MTM appreciates the scholarship funded by the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES) to stay at the James Hutton Institute for 12 months (Process n° BEX 2934/15-9). This study has also received funding from Agrisus Foundation (PA n° 1236/13). The James Hutton Institute is funded by the Scottish Government.

Supplementary material

11104_2018_3656_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (1.2 mb)
Video S1 Timelapse video of soybean root growth in the profile without soil compaction. (MP4 1208 kb)
11104_2018_3656_MOESM2_ESM.mp4 (1015 kb)
Video S2 Timelapse video of soybean root growth in the profile with a soil compaction. (MP4 1014 kb)
11104_2018_3656_MOESM3_ESM.mp4 (1021 kb)
Video S3 Timelapse video of soybean root growth in a drier season. (MP4 1021 kb)
11104_2018_3656_MOESM4_ESM.mp4 (1.1 mb)
Video S4 Timelapse video of soybean root growth in a wetter season. (MP4 1128 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Federal University of Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil
  2. 2.The James Hutton InstituteDundeeUK
  3. 3.School of Science and EngineeringUniversity of DundeeDundeeUK
  4. 4.Embrapa SojaLondrinaBrazil
  5. 5.Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbHInstitute of Bio- and Geosciences, IBG-3: AgrosphereJuelichGermany
  6. 6.SimulationswerkstattLeondingAustria

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