Getting to the root of better crops

May 16, 2013
Getting to the root of better crops

(Phys.org) —The more crop scientists know about how plant roots take up water and nutrients, the better able they will be to develop crop plants with roots that can cope with challenging soil and environmental conditions.

Until now, it was difficult for scientists to observe roots without digging a plant up. But a new study has suggested that it is possible to develop crop varieties for different environments by using a combination of plant selection and computer simulation modelling.

In a study published in the journal Plant and Soil last week, researchers from The University of Western Australia, the Department of Agriculture and Food WA and institutions in Tasmania and Germany compared modelling simulations with experimental results in a glasshouse.

They observed root growth and root responses to phosphorus fertiliser in narrow-leafed lupin genotypes which had different root traits.

The researchers showed that a combination of phosphorus foraging strategies - including root architecture, and root growth plasticity - are important for efficient phosphorus uptake from a localised source of phosphorus.

They noted there was a good correspondence between the glasshouse results and , confirming the importance of 3-D models of root architecture and function in predicting the optimal combination of root traits for specific environments.

Narrow-leafed lupin was used in the study as it is an important legume for in the Mediterranean climatic region. Scientists have established a large germplasm pool of wild narrow-leafed lupin that contains a significant proportion of the world's genetic resource for developing improved varieties.

"Given the variability in the genome for root architecture, plastic responses and foraging strategies, there is an opportunity to improve by selecting for root traits that are beneficial for nutrient and water uptake in the Mediterranean-type environments," the study authors write.

They added that although simulation models do not always predict experimental results accurately, they are very good at predicting relative differences and therefore can be used as a valuable tool for identifying plant phenotypes with improved productivity in the field.

Explore further: Free the seed: OSSI nurtures growing plants without patent barriers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New tool gets to the root of the matter

Feb 20, 2013

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his colleague at Cornell University have developed a new tool for studying how roots take shape in the soil.

Crop root study to boost Australian grain production

May 09, 2012

Researchers at The University of Western Australia say that "next frontier" of agricultural science is understanding the root system and function of crop plants to significantly increase Australian grain production, ...

Benefits of Bt corn go beyond rootworm resistance

Feb 06, 2013

Engineered to produce the bacterial toxin, Bt, "Bt corn" resists attack by corn rootworm, a pest that feeds on roots and can cause annual losses of up to $1 billion. But besides merely protecting against these losses, the ...

How salt stops plant growth

Jan 23, 2013

Until now it has not been clear how salt, a scourge to agriculture, halts the growth of the plant-root system. A team of researchers, led by the Carnegie Institution's José Dinneny and Lina Duan, found that ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.