Juvenile root vigour improves phosphorus use efficiency of potato

  • Philip J. White
  • John E. Bradshaw
  • Lawrie K. Brown
  • M. Finlay B. Dale
  • Lionel X. Dupuy
  • Timothy S. George
  • John P. Hammond
  • Nithya K. Subramanian
  • Jacqueline A. Thompson
  • Jane Wishart
  • Gladys Wright
Regular Article



Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) has a large phosphorus (P)-fertiliser requirement. This is thought to be due to its inability to acquire P effectively from the soil. This work tested the hypothesis that early proliferation of its root system would enhance P acquisition, accelerate canopy development, and enable greater yields.


Six years of field experiments characterised the relationships between (1) leaf P concentration ([P]leaf), tuber yield, and tuber P concentration ([P]tuber) among 27 Tuberosum, 35 Phureja and 4 Diploid Hybrid genotypes and (2) juvenile root vigour, P acquisition and tuber yield among eight Tuberosum genotypes selected for contrasting responses to P-fertiliser.


Substantial genetic variation was observed in tuber yield, [P]leaf and [P]tuber. There was a strong positive relationship between tuber yields and P acquisition among genotypes, whether grown with or without P-fertiliser. Juvenile root vigour was correlated with accelerated canopy development and both greater P acquisition and tuber biomass accumulation early in the season. However, the latter relationships became weaker during the season.


Increased juvenile root vigour accelerated P acquisition and initial canopy cover and, thereby, increased tuber yields. Juvenile root vigour is a heritable trait and can be selected to improve P-fertiliser use efficiency of potato.


Phosphorus Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) Root morphology Tuber yield 



This work was supported by funding from the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Projects HH3504SPO, HH3507SFV), the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government through its Strategic Research Programmes (2006-2011, 2011-2016, 2016-2021), and the European Community under both the Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities through the Integrated Project NUE-CROPS (FP7-CP-IP 222645) and the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme through the SolACE Project (Grant number 727247). Nithya K. Subramanian was supported by a Research Scholarship from the International Office of the University of Nottingham and an SCRI-Universities Ph.D. Scholarship from The Scottish Crop Research Institute. We thank Gavin Ramsay, Rory Hayden, Michael Adu, Amy Gimson, Emma Shaw, Bruna Arruda, Joice Heidemann, Ralph Wilson, Euan Caldwell and the Farm Staff at the James Hutton Institute for their help with field trials and laboratory experiments. We thank Martin Broadley and Konrad Neugebauer for their comments on a draft version of the manuscript. The views expressed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission. Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use which might be made of the information contained herein.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip J. White
    • 1
    • 2
  • John E. Bradshaw
    • 1
  • Lawrie K. Brown
    • 1
  • M. Finlay B. Dale
    • 1
  • Lionel X. Dupuy
    • 1
  • Timothy S. George
    • 1
  • John P. Hammond
    • 3
  • Nithya K. Subramanian
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jacqueline A. Thompson
    • 1
  • Jane Wishart
    • 5
  • Gladys Wright
    • 1
  1. 1.The James Hutton InstituteDundeeUK
  2. 2.Distinguished Scientist Fellowship ProgramKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.School of Agriculture, Policy and DevelopmentUniversity of ReadingReadingUK
  4. 4.Soil and Crop Sciences DepartmentTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  5. 5.School of BiologyUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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