Root growth and development

  • Richard W. Zobel
Part of the Beltsville Symposia in Agricultural Research book series (BSAR, volume 14)


Much detailed basic research on root growth and development was undertaken during the early portion of this century. Recent research has explored some of the underlying anatomical, physiological and genetic mechanisms driving root growth. There have been three major constraints to plant rhizosphere research: 1) inconsistent use of an inexact terminology, 2) inadequate information about different root types (morpho-types) and their functional relationships, and 3) extreme variability. Information is accumulating which suggests that although roots all have apparently very similar anatomies, their detailed anatomy may differ dramatically, and their functions may be very different. The concept of continual growth and die-back of small roots impacts on the understanding of the bases for soil floral and faunal biodynamics. That some roots may have no active role in nutrient or water uptake forces a re-evaluation of even the most tightly held concepts. This paper suggests that genotype by environment interaction (a necessary evolutionary and adaptive condition for plant rooting) is responsible for the observed extreme variability. This variability has forced the conclusion that rooting patterns are under multior polygenic control. However, single gene root mutants discovered in tomato and statistical analyses designed to handle genotype by environment interaction suggest that this perceived genetic complexity is conditioned by a simple genetic system with extensive genotype by environment interaction.

Key words

environmental variation genotypic variation GxE interaction root functionality root terminology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard W. Zobel
    • 1
  1. 1.USDA-ARS-USPSNL and Agronomy and Plant Breeding DepartmentsCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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