Plant and Soil

, Volume 248, Issue 1–2, pp 43–59 | Cite as

Origins of root-mediated pH changes in the rhizosphere and their responses to environmental constraints: A review

  • Philippe Hinsinger
  • Claude Plassard
  • Caixian Tang
  • Benoît Jaillard


The aim of the present review is to define the various origins of root-mediated changes of pH in the rhizosphere, i.e., the volume of soil around roots that is influenced by root activities. Root-mediated pH changes are of major relevance in an ecological perspective as soil pH is a critical parameter that influences the bioavailability of many nutrients and toxic elements and the physiology of the roots and rhizosphere microorganisms. A major process that contributes root-induced pH changes in the rhizosphere is the release of charges carried by H+ or OH to compensate for an unbalanced cation–anion uptake at the soil–root interface. In addition to the ions taken up by the plant, all the ions crossing the plasma membrane of root cells (e.g., organic anions exuded by plant roots) should be taken into account, since they all need to be balanced by an exchange of charges, i.e., by a release of either H+ or OH. Although poorly documented, root exudation and respiration can contribute some proportion of rhizosphere pH decrease as a result of a build-up of the CO2 concentration. This will form carbonic acid in the rhizosphere that may dissociate in neutral to alkaline soils, and result in some pH decrease. Ultimately, plant roots and associated microorganisms can also alter rhizosphere pH via redox-coupled reactions. These various processes involved in root-mediated pH changes in the rhizosphere also depend on environmental constraints, especially nutritional constraints to which plants can respond. This is briefly addressed, with a special emphasis on the response of plant roots to deficiencies of P and Fe and to Al toxicity. Finally, soil pH itself and pH buffering capacity also have a dramatic influence on root-mediated pH changes.

acidification alkalinisation proton rhizosphere root soil pH 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Hinsinger
    • 1
  • Claude Plassard
    • 1
  • Caixian Tang
    • 2
  • Benoît Jaillard
    • 1
  1. 1.INRA UMR Sol & EnvironnementMontpellier Cedex 1France
  2. 2.Soil Science and Plant NutritionUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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