How changing root system architecture can help tackle a reduction in soil phosphate (P) levels for better plant P acquisition: Phosphate uptake by plants

J. Heppell, P. Talboys, S. Payvandi, K. C. Zygalakis, J. Fliege, P. J. A. Withers, D. L. Jones, T. Roose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The readily available global rock phosphate (P) reserves may run out within the next 50–130 years, causing soils to have a reduced P concentration which will affect plant P uptake. Using a combination of mathematical modelling and experimental data, we investigated potential plant-based options for optimizing crop P uptake in reduced soil P environments.

By varying the P concentration within a well-mixed agricultural soil, for high and low P (35.5–12.5 mg L−1 respectively using Olsen's P index), we investigated branching distributions within a wheat root system that maximize P uptake.

Changing the root branching distribution from linear (evenly spaced branches) to strongly exponential (a greater number of branches at the top of the soil) improves P uptake by 142% for low-P soils when root mass is kept constant between simulations. This causes the roots to emerge earlier and mimics topsoil foraging. Manipulating root branching patterns, to maximize P uptake, is not enough on its own to overcome the drop in soil P from high to low P. Further mechanisms have to be considered to fully understand the impact of P reduction on plant development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-128
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Volume38
Issue number1
Early online date24 Jun 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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