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Heterorhizy and fine root architecture of rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum) softwood-cuttings


All fine root systems consist of individual fine roots. Individual roots have morphological, anatomical, and functional heterogeneity (heterorhizy). Heterorhizy plays crucial roles in plant ecosystems. However, in many species, the heterorhizy and fine root system architecture based on individual root units are unclear. This study investigated heterorhizy along the root system architecture of Vaccinium virgatum Ait (rabbiteye blueberry) softwood-cuttings (propagated from annual shoots in growing season) using protoxylem groups (PGs), a classification according to the number of protoxylem poles, as an indicator of individual root traits. Individual roots of rabbiteye blueberry varied from monarch to heptarch. The frequency of roots with larger number of PGs decreased but those with smaller number of PGs increased from adventitious roots toward lateral roots with different branching levels. This architecture were stable among cultivars, collecting position of the cuttings, or indole acetic acids treatment. Individual root sizes and secondary growth were positively correlated with the PGs. These results indicate that branching itself strongly and broadly controls individual root traits. The individual roots were classified into two types: monarch and diarch roots with small size and lacking secondary growth (thought to be hair roots in core Ericaceae) and triarch or more PG roots with large size and showing secondary growth. These heterogeneous individual roots responded differently to the experimental factors. In particular, elongation of the large roots significantly contributed to increased total root length. These results mean that heterorhizic plasticity is a determinant of root system development and heterorhizic variation exists even under practical cutting condition. In conclusion, we demonstrated heterorhizy of rabbieye blueberry cuttings based on the strong relationships of PG, individual root morphology and growth potential, and root system architecture. This study also supports strong connection between root morphology and functional roles intermediated by the PG.

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Correspondence to Takuya Ban.

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Baba, T., Nakaba, S., Noma, S. et al. Heterorhizy and fine root architecture of rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum) softwood-cuttings. J Plant Res 131, 271–284 (2018).

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  • Hair root
  • Heterorhizy
  • Individual root
  • Protoxylem group
  • Root morphology
  • Vaccinium virgatum Ait.