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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(1)

Root characteristics of some temperate legume species and varieties on deep, free-draining entisols

AP Hamblin and J Hamblin

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 36(1) 63 - 72
Published: 1985


We report experiments comparing several legumes with the aim of distinguishing genotypic from environmental differences in those root parameters which influence water use and nutrition. Temperate crop and pasture legumes were grown on three xeric psamment soils at latitude 29┬ŽS. in Western Australia to evaluate the relative root characteristics of different species. Sites had 428, 298 and 155 mm rainfall in the (winter) growing season. Maximum root depth was significantly different (P < 0.001) between genotypes, but non-significant between sites. Genetic control for maximum root depth is thus implied. This has significance for water use and plant production of these low water-storage sandy soils. Lupinus spp. extended their roots to an average 190 cm, Pisum sativum L. to only 65 cm, Triticum aestivum L. to 113 cm. The pasture species ranged from Vicia benghalensis L. (75 cm) and Trifolium spp. (69 cm) to Medicago spp. which averaged 92 cm. Lupins and wheat had less than 50% of their total root length (cm-1) in the top 20 cm, whereas other species all had over 70% of roots in that layer. Pasture legumes with high root density in that layer tend to dry sandy topsoils frequently, reducing nutrient availability and hence vegetative growth. Root density averaged only 0.045 for lupins, compared with 1.0 cm-2 for clovers. All total root lengths were low at maturity, compared with more favorable environments. Nevertheless, they were calculated to be adequate for water and mobile nutrient extraction from these sandy soils.

Full text doi:10.1071/AR9850063

© CSIRO 1985

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