Plant and Soil

, Volume 418, Issue 1–2, pp 115–128 | Cite as

The rhizosheath – a potential trait for future agricultural sustainability occurs in orders throughout the angiosperms

  • Lawrie K. Brown
  • Timothy S. GeorgeEmail author
  • Konrad Neugebauer
  • Philip J. White
Regular Article



The rhizosheath is defined as the weight of soil adhering strongly to roots on excavation, and current interest in this trait as a potential tolerance mechanism to abiotic stress has prompted us to explore the extent of its occurrence throughout the angiosperm phylogeny.


Here we describe a robust, novel method which was used to screen species for the presence/absence and strength of a rhizosheath. We correlate the latter with root hair length to provide insight into some of the factors affecting its formation. We go on to compare experimental data with previous observations in the literature.


Results of a glasshouse screen demonstrate that rhizosheaths exist in species from many angiosperm orders, and the frequency of their occurrence and their strength and size are related. No correlation between root hair length and rhizosheath size was found, except when root hairs were extremely short, but the presence of root hairs was required for rhizosheath formation.


The rhizosheath is present in species from many angiosperm orders. Potential to enhance the trait is likely to exist in a range of crop species and could help contribute to future agricultural sustainability.


Rhizosheath Angiosperm phylogeny Root hairs Agricultural sustainability Abiotic stress tolerance Second green revolution 



This work was funded by the Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government. We acknoweldge the suggestions made by the editor and reviewers of an earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

11104_2017_3220_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 27 kb)
11104_2017_3220_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (47 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 47 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrie K. Brown
    • 1
  • Timothy S. George
    • 1
    Email author
  • Konrad Neugebauer
    • 1
    • 3
  • Philip J. White
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The James Hutton InstituteDundeeUK
  2. 2.King Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  3. 3.University of NottinghamLoughboroughUK

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