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Penetration of very strong soils by seedling roots of different plant species

Abstract

The abilities of seedling roots of twenty-two plant species to penetrate a strong growth medium were compared under controlled conditions. Seedlings were grown for 10 days in compression chambers filled with siliceous sandy soil at 0.2 kg kg−1 water content and mean penetrometer resistance of 4.2 MPa. Root elongation and thickening were measured after growth. The results show that soil strength reduced the elongation of roots of all plant species by over 90% and caused the diameters of the roots to increase compared with control plants grown in vermiculite (0 MPa resistance).

Differences in both root elongation and root diameter were observed among plant species. Generally, the roots of dicotyledons (with large diameters) penetrated the strong medium more than graminaceous monocotyledons (with smaller diameters). There was a significant positive correlation (r=0.78, p<0.05) between root diameter and elongation over all the species in the stressed plants. The species were ranked according to the relative root elongation and relative root thickening. Based on this ranking, lupin (Lupinus angustifolius), medic (Medicago scutelata) and faba bean (Vicia faba) were the species with the greatest thickening and elongation while wheat (Triticum aestivum), rhodesgrass (Chloris gayana) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) had the least. The weight of the seeds did not seem to influence either the thickening or elongation of the roots.

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Materechera, S.A., Dexter, A.R. & Alston, A.M. Penetration of very strong soils by seedling roots of different plant species. Plant Soil 135, 31–41 (1991). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00014776

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Key words

  • penetrometer resistance
  • plant species
  • root diameter
  • root elongation
  • seedling roots
  • soil strength