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Plant and Soil

, Volume 407, Issue 1–2, pp 145–160 | Cite as

Root age distribution: how does it matter in plant processes? A focus on water uptake

  • Doris Vetterlein
  • Claude Doussan
Regular Article

Abstract

Aims and background

Root growth creates a gradient in age at both the scale of the single root, from distal to proximal parts, but also at the root system level when young branch roots emerge from the axis or new nodal roots are emitted that may reach same soil domain as older roots. It is known that a number of root functions will vary with root type and root tissue age (e.g. respiration, exudation, ion uptake, root hydraulic conductance, mucilage release…) and so will the resulting rhizosphere properties. The impact of the distribution of root demography with depth, and related functions, on the overall functioning of the root system is fundamental for an integration of processes at the root system scale.

Scope and conclusion

Starting from methods for measuring root demography, we discuss the availability of data related to root age and its spatial distribution, considering plant types (monocot/dicot, perennial/annuals) which may exhibit different patterns. We then give a detailed review of variation of root/rhizosphere properties related to root age, focusing on root water uptake processes. We examine the type of response of certain properties to changes in age and whether a functional relationship can be derived. Integration of changing root properties with age into modelling approaches is shown from 3D models at the single plant scale to approaches at the field scale based on integrated root system age. Functional structural modelling combined with new development in non-invasive imaging of roots show promises for integrating influence of age on root properties, from the local to whole root system scales. However, experimental quantification of these properties, such as hydraulic conductance variation with root age and root types, or impact of mucilage and its degradation products on rhizosphere hydraulic properties, presently lag behind the theoretical developments and increase in computational power.

Keywords

Root demography Rhizosphere Water relations Model 

Abbreviations

TTC assay

Triphenyltetrazolium chloride assay

MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging

X-ray CT

X-ray computed tomography

Kh

Root hydraulic axial conductance

Lr

Root hydraulic radial conductivity

Lo

Root system hydraulic conductance (not normalized by root surface area)

Lpr

Root system hydraulic conductivity (normalized by root surface area)

Notes

Acknowledgments

Research is funded by DFG “Mucilage: the hydraulic bridge between roots and soil” VE 229/3-1 AOBJ: 610452 and by a grant from EU-EURoot project (KBBE-2011-5-289300). We thank Nico Koebernick and Katrin Huber for providing Fig. 2.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Soil PhysicsHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZHalle/SaaleGermany
  2. 2.Soil Science, Martin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalle/SaaleGermany
  3. 3.INRA – UMR 1114 EMMAH – INRA / UAPV, Domaine Saint Paul, Site AgroparcAvignonFrance

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