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Morphological responses of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) roots to phosphorus supply in two contrasting soils

  • H. M. YUAN (a1), M. BLACKWELL (a2), S. MCGRATH (a3), T. S. GEORGE (a4), S. H. GRANGER (a2), J. M. B. HAWKINS (a2), S. DUNHAM (a3) and J. B. SHEN (a1)...


To cope with phosphorus (P) deficiency, plants adapt root morphology to enhance inorganic P (Pi) acquisition from soil by allocating more biomass to roots, but whether the responses can be modified across gradients of P supply is not fully understood. The present study examined changes in root-length density (RLD), root-hair density (RHD) and root-hair length (RHL) of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in two contrasting soils, the Rough and Barnfield soils. Wheat plants were grown for 3 weeks in thin-plate rhizotrons in two soils with additions of 0, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 200 mg P/kg soil. Contrary to published literature, as P additions increased it was observed that a concomitant increase in RHL (250 to 1054 µm in the Rough soil and 303–1075 µm in the Barnfield soil) and RHD (57 to 122/mm in the Rough soil and 56–120/mm in the Barnfield soil), while RLD generally decreased (2480–1130 cm/cm3 in the Rough soil and 1716–865 cm/cm3 in the Barnfield soil). The levels of added P that resulted in critical P concentrations in the soils enabling maximum shoot biomass production were 50 mg/kg P in the Rough soil and 100 mg/kg P in the Barnfield soil, and these additions influenced root morphological changes. Under severe P deficiency, P supply increased RHL and RHD, but RLD was decreased. Improvement in lateral root and root-hair responses in wheat at extreme P deficiency may be a worthy target for breeding more sustainable genotypes for future agroecosystems.


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