Plant and Soil

, Volume 385, Issue 1–2, pp 303–310 | Cite as

Quantifying the response of wheat (Triticum aestivum L) root system architecture to phosphorus in an Oxisol

  • Richard J. Flavel
  • Christopher N. Guppy
  • Matthew K. Tighe
  • Michelle Watt
  • Iain M. Young
Regular Article


Background and aims

Despite the recognised importance of root architecture to plant productivity, our ability to easily observe and quantify root responses to stresses in soil at appropriate mechanistic resolution, remains poor. In this study we examine the impact of P bands on root architecture in heterogeneous soil, trialling a rapid non-destructive analysis technique.


We examined fast (<5 min), high resolution (69 μm voxels) x-ray tomography (μCT) to non-destructively observe and quantify wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) roots in a repacked Oxisol, in 3D, with and without a band of P-enriched soil.


We found that wheat roots displayed localised responses (were plastic) and responded with additional root length within the banded P fertiliser. The seedling root systems also altered 3D root architecture in the band by increasing the number and length of branch roots. Branch root angle was not altered by the P band. The spatial precision of the branching response was striking and raises questions concerning the root sensing and/or response mechanisms.


Triticum aestivum Soil structure Root architecture Tomography X-rays 



We thank G. Falzon for statistical advice and Kernel smoothing algorithm. This research was in part funded by The University of New England, the CSIRO OCE Postgraduate Scholarship, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation - Grains Industry Research Scholarship.


  1. Al-Ghazi Y, Muller B, Pinloche S, Tranbarger T, Nacry P, Rossignol M, Tardieu F, Doumas P (2003) Temporal responses of Arabidopsis root architecture to phosphate starvation: evidence for the involvement of auxin signalling. Plant Cell Environ 26:1052–1066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asher CJ, Lonergran JF (1967) Response of plants to phosphate concentration in solution culture: I: growth and phosphorus concentration. Soil Sci 103:225–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonser A, Lynch J, Snapp S (1996) Effect of phosphorus deficiency on growth angle of basal roots in Phaseolus vulgaris. New Phytol 132:281–288PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Breiman L, Friedman J, Olshen R, Stone C (1984) Classification and Regression Trees. Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  5. Colwell J (1963) The estimation of phosphorus fertiliser requirements of wheat in southern New South Wales by soil analysis. Aust J Exp Agric Anim Husbandary 3:190–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Drew M (1975) Comparison of the effects of a localised supply of phosphate, nitrate, ammonium and potassium on the growth of the seminal root system, and the shoot, in Barley. New Phytol 75:479–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Flavel R, Guppy C, Tighe M, Watt M, McNeill A, Young I (2012) Non-destructive quantification of cereal roots in soil using high-resolution X-ray tomography. J Exp Bot 63:2503–2511PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ge Z, Rubio G, Lynch J (2000) The importance of root gravitropism for inter-root competition and phosphorus acquisition efficiency: results from a geometric simulation model. Plant Soil 218:159–171PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grant C, Flaten D, Tomasiewicz D, Sheppard S (2001) The importance of early season phosphorus nutrition. Can J Plant Sci 81:211–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hadfield J (2010) MCMC methods for multi-response generalised linear mixed models: the MCMCglmm R package. J Stat Softw 33:1–22Google Scholar
  11. Helliwell JR, Sturrock CJ, Grayling KM, Tracy SR, Flavel RJ, Young IM, Whalley WR, Mooney SJ (2103) Applications of X-ray computed tomography for examining biophysical interactions and structural development in soil systems: a review. Eur J Soil Sci 64:279–297Google Scholar
  12. Henry A, Chaves N, Kleinman P, Lynch J (2010) Will nutrient-efficient genotypes mine the soil? Effects of genetic differences in root architecture in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) on soil phosphorus depletion in a low-input agro-ecosystem in central America. Field Crop Res 115:67–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ho M, McCannon B, Lynch J (2004) Optimization modeling of plant root architecture for water and phosphorus acquisition. J Theor Biol 226:331–340PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hodge A (2004) The plastic plant: root responses to heterogeneous supplies of nutrients. New Phytol 162:9–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ingram P, Zhu J, Shariff A, Davis I, Benfey P, Elich T (2012) High-throughput imaging and analysis of root system architecture in brachypodium distachyon under differential nutrient availability. Philos Trans R Soc Biol Sci 367:1559–1569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jackson R, Caldwell M (1989) The timing and degree of root proliferation in fertile-soil microsites for three cold-desert perennials. Oecologia 81:149–153Google Scholar
  17. Lopez-Bucio J, Cruz-Ramirez A, Herrera-Estrella L (2003) The role of nutrient availability in regulating root architecture. Curr Opin Plant Biol 6:280–287PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lynch J (2007) Roots of the second green revolution. Aust J Bot 55:495–512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mairhofer S, Zappala S, Tracy S, Sturrock C, Bennett M, Mooney S, Pridmore T (2012) RooTrak: automated recovery of three-dimensional plant root architecture in soil from X-ray computed tomography images using visual tracking. Plant Physiol 158:561–569PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Malamy J (2005) Intrinsic and environmental response pathways that regulate root system architecture. Plant Cell Environ 28:67–77PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Nadaraya E (1964) On estimating regression. Theory Probab Appl 9:141–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nielsen K, Eshel A, Lynch J (2001) The effect of phosphorus availability on the carbon economy of contrasting common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) genotypes. J Exp Bot 52:239–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. R Development Core Team (2010) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, AustriaGoogle Scholar
  24. Ramaekers L, Remans R, Rao I, Blair M, Vanderleyden J (2010) Strategies for improving phosphorus acquisition efficiency of crop plants. Field Crop Res 117:169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Robinson D (1994) Tansley review No. 73 the responses of plants to non-uniform supplies of nurtients. New Phytol 127:635–674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Robinson D (2005) Integrated root responses to variations in nutrient supply. In: Nutrient acquisition by plants- an ecological perspective (ed H. BrassiriRad). Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg Berlin, Germany.Google Scholar
  27. Rubio G, Walk T, Ge Z, Yan X, Liao H, Lynch J (2001) Root gravitropism and below-ground competition among neighbouring plants: a modelling approach. Ann Bot 88:929–940CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ticconi C, Abel S (2004) Short on phosphate: plan surveillance and countermeasures. Trends Plant Sci 9:548–555PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tinker P, Nye P (2000) Solute movement in the rhizosphere. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Wang Y, Garvin D, Kochian L (2002) Rapid induction of regulatory and transporter genes in response to phosphorus, potassium, and iron deficiencies in tomato roots. evidence for cross talk and root/rhizosphere-mediated signals. Plant Physiol 130:1361–1370PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Watson G (1964) Smooth regression analysis. Sankhya Indian J Statistic 26:359–372Google Scholar
  32. Watt M, Kirkegaard J, Rebetzke G (2005) A wheat genotype developed for rapid leaf growth copes well with the physical and biological constraints of unploughed soil. Funct Plant Biol 32:695–706CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wildenschild D, Hopmans J, Vaz C, Rivers M, Rikard D, Christensen B (2002) Using X-ray computed tomography in hydrology: systems, resolutions and limitations. J Hydrol 267:285–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard J. Flavel
    • 1
  • Christopher N. Guppy
    • 1
  • Matthew K. Tighe
    • 1
  • Michelle Watt
    • 2
  • Iain M. Young
    • 1
  1. 1.Plant, Soil & Environmental Systems, School of Environmental and Rural ScienceUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Plant IndustryCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations