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Root System Architecture of Salix miyabeana “SX67” and Relationships with Aboveground Biomass Yields


This study focused on relationships between soil properties, root architecture, and aboveground biomass productivity of Salix miyabeana “SX67”. Roots were excavated at eight short-rotation cultures with contrasted soil/climatic conditions and root system ages from 4 to 14 years. The depth of the root branching points to the initial cuttings, root diameters, and root branching occurrence as well as soil physico-chemical properties were measured. Aboveground biomass had been estimated in a previous study, which allowed to calculate a proxy of root-to-shoot ratio. Root system ages and belowground biomass were related (adj. R2 = 0.88, p < 0.001). However, biomass partitioning in the different tree components was mainly governed by soil properties. Sand content was related to root-to-shoot ratio (adj. R2=0.73, p < 0.01) and the proportion of coarse roots (diameter > 1 cm) deeper than 10 cm (adj. R2 = 0.75, p < 0.01), whereas clay content was related to root branching occurrence-to-aboveground productivity ratio (adj. R2 = 0.80, p < 0.01). Coarse root depth distribution was related to aboveground biomass following a quadratic model that suggested (i) a maximal aboveground biomass productivity when a third of the roots were deeper than 10 cm and (ii) two opposite strategies of biomass allocation, i.e., biomass was allocated “downward” with a higher proportion of deeper roots and root-to-shoot ratio at sites with coarser soils and “upward” with a lower proportion of deeper roots and root-to-shoot ratio at sites with clayey/compacted soils. The study highlights how root plasticity of “SX67” copes with different soil stresses to maintain high aboveground biomass productivity.

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We thank Florence Bélanger, Alexandre Fouillet, Fanny Gagné, Julien Mourali and Gilbert Tremblay for their help during field campaigns and laboratory work as well as the farmers who gave us access to their willow plantations.


Financial support for this project was provided by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (grant number 2011-GZ-138839).

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Correspondence to Nicolas Bélanger.

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Fontana, M., Collin, A., Courchesne, F. et al. Root System Architecture of Salix miyabeana “SX67” and Relationships with Aboveground Biomass Yields. Bioenerg. Res. 13, 183–196 (2020).

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  • Belowground biomass allocation
  • Root-to-shoot ratio
  • Root branching
  • Root plasticity
  • Soil properties
  • Short rotation culture