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Morphological and architectural development of root systems in sorghum and maize

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Abstract

Root systems determine the capacity of a plant to access soil water and their architecture can influence adaptation to water-limited conditions. It may be possible to associate that architecture with root attributes of young plants as a basis for rapid phenotypic screening. This requires improved understanding of root system development. This study aimed to characterise the morphological and architectural development of sorghum and maize root systems by (i) clarifying the initiation and origin of roots at germination, and (ii) monitoring and quantifying the development of root systems in young plants. Three experiments were conducted with two maize and four sorghum hybrids. Sorghum produced a sole seminal (primary) root and coleoptile nodal roots emerged at the 4th–5th leaf stage, whereas maize produced 3–7 seminal (primary and scutellum) roots and coleoptile nodal roots emerged at the 2nd leaf stage. Genotypic variation in the flush angle and mean diameter of nodal roots was observed and could be considered a suitable target for large scale screening for root architecture in breeding populations. Because of the relatively late appearance of nodal roots in sorghum, such screening would require a small chamber system to grow plants until at least 6 leaves had fully expanded.

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Acknowledgements

This research formed part of a collaborative research project funded by the participating organisations and the Australian Research Council (ARC) through ARC-linkage project LP0560484.

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Correspondence to Vijaya Singh.

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Responsible Editor: Peter J. Gregory.

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Singh, V., van Oosterom, E.J., Jordan, D.R. et al. Morphological and architectural development of root systems in sorghum and maize. Plant Soil 333, 287–299 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-010-0343-0

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