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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology


Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 41(6)

Spring barley shows dynamic compensatory root and shoot growth responses when exposed to localised soil compaction and fertilisation

Johannes Pfeifer A B C , Marc Faget A , Achim Walter B , Stephan Blossfeld A , Fabio Fiorani A , Ulrich Schurr A and Kerstin A. Nagel A

A Institute of Bio- and Geosciences, IBG-2: Plant Sciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, 52425 Jülich, Germany.
B Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), Universitätsstrasse 2, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland.
C Corresponding author. Email: johannes.pfeifer@usys.ethz.ch

Functional Plant Biology 41(6) 581-597 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP13224
Submitted: 29 July 2013  Accepted: 5 January 2014   Published: 17 February 2014

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The impact of heterogeneous soil compaction in combination with nutrient availability on root system architecture and root growth dynamics has scarcely been investigated. We quantified changes of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) root and shoot growth during the first 3 weeks of growth in a controlled-environment chamber. Vertically divided split-root rhizotrons were filled either uniformly with loose or compacted peat, or heterogeneously with loose peat in one compartment and compacted peat in the other. We investigated the following questions. (a) Can growth processes affected by soil compaction be mimicked in our system? (b) Do plants show compensatory growth effects when exposed to heterogeneous soil compaction? (c) Does localised fertiliser application affect root systems’ responses to compaction? We observed compensatory effects regarding root system architecture and root growth dynamics due to vertically heterogeneous soil compaction. Roots grew deeper and lateral roots emerged earlier in the loose compartment of the split-root treatment compared with uniform treatments. When fertiliser was applied only via the compacted compartment in the split-root treatment, more lateral roots were initiated in the compacted compartment and lateral root formation started a few days earlier than in the uniform treatments. Consequently, the first days after exposure to heterogeneous soil conditions are critical for the analysis of underlying physiological responses.

Additional keywords: abiotic stress, acclimation, lateral roots, nutrient acquisition, plant response, soil strength.


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