Plant and Soil

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 283–295 | Cite as

Growth and development of root systems of winter cereals grown after different tillage methods including direct drilling

  • F. B. Ellis
  • B. T. Barnes


A method is described for rapidly estimating the depth of penetration and density of roots of cereal crops under field conditions. Counts of living roots, traversing horizontal faces of soil cores, were made for winter wheat growing on direct-drilled and ploughed land.

The rate of penetration of roots of winter wheat in a clay and a sandy loam soil averaged 5 mm per day throughout winters without extremes of cold or wet. Death of roots near the soil surface occurred wilst others continued downward penetration. The rate of root elongation was slower during prolonged periods when the soil was wet and faster,i.e. to greater depths, during dry conditions.

Damage sustained to roots during adverse winter conditions ofter varied between direct drilling and ploughing. More roots at depth were consistently recorded on direct-drilled than on ploughed land when measured in spring after a soil water deficit had developed during the preceding month. After prolonged wet soil conditions during the winter on a soil with a large clay fraction and low hydraulic conductivity, root growth and penetration in spring, before the development of a soil water deficit, was more restricted on direct-drilled than on ploughed land.

Key Words

Clay soils Cultivations Direct drilling Earthworms Root growth Root sampling Soil water content Soil structure Wheat 


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. B. Ellis
    • 1
  • B. T. Barnes
    • 1
  1. 1.Agricultural Research Council Letcombe LaboratoryWantageEngland

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