Exploring root system architecture and anatomical variability in alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) seedlings

Xinya Pan, Pengfei Wang, Xianwei Wei, Jinxin Zhang, Bingcheng Xu, Yinglong Chen, Gehong Wei, Zhi Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The growth of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is significantly hampered by drought and nutrient deficiencies. The identification of root architectural and anatomical characteristics holds paramount importance for the development of alfalfa genotypes with enhanced adaptation to adverse environmental conditions. In this study, we employed a visual rhizobox system to investigate the variability in root system architecture (including root depth, root length, root tips number, etc.), anatomical features (such as cortical traits, total stele area, number and area of vessel, etc.), as well as nitrogen and phosphorus uptake across 53 alfalfa genotypes during the seedling stage.

RESULTS: Out of the 42 traits measured, 21 root traits, along with nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) uptake, displayed higher coefficients of variation (CVs ≥ 0.25) among the tested genotypes. Local root morphological and anatomical traits exhibited more significant variation than global root traits. Twenty-three traits with CVs ≥ 0.25 constituted to six principal components (eigenvalues > 1), collectively accounting for 88.0% of the overall genotypic variation. Traits such as total root length, number of root tips, maximal root depth, and others exhibited positive correlations with shoot dry mass and root dry mass. Additionally, total stele area and xylem vessel area showed positive correlations with N and P uptake.

CONCLUSIONS: These root traits, which have demonstrated associations with biomass and nutrient uptake, may be considered for the breeding of alfalfa genotypes that possess efficient resource absorption and increased adaptability to abiotic stress, following validation during the entire growth period in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number449
Number of pages17
JournalBMC Plant Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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