Harnessing root-foraging capacity to improve nutrient-use efficiency for sustainable maize production

Jingying Jing, Wei Gao, Lingyun Cheng, Xin Wang, Fengying Duan, Lixing Yuan, Zed Rengel, Fusuo Zhang, Haigang Li, James F. Cahill, Jianbo Shen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Producing more food with less input is imperative in feeding the increasing world population. Here, for the first time we characterize the multipartite responses of maize to nutrient-rich patches and demonstrate significant synergistic effects between root morphological and physiological responses on improving nutrient-use efficiency and yield. Our results showed that maize root length, lateral root formation, acid phosphatase (APase) secretion, and expression of ammonium transporter genes increased in the ammonium-containing patches; moreover, ammonium-induced rhizosphere acidification enhanced activity of APase. These root responses were associated with improved maize nutrition and growth even with reduced fertilizer input, suggesting an adaptive benefit of synergistic root foraging strategies. These new findings improve our understanding of root-foraging responses to nutrient-specific cues and are crucial for engineering root and rhizosphere properties to improve nutrient-use efficiency for sustainable crop production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108462
JournalField Crops Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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