Root characteristics of vigorous wheat improve early nitrogen uptake

Mingtan Liao, Jairo A. Palta, Ian R.P. Fillery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

118 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Root growth is important for the acquisition of nitrogen (N) and water in deep sandy soil profiles with high leaching potential. Root growth characteristics and the N uptake of wheat genotypes differing in early vigour were investigated in 2 glasshouse experiments. In both experiments the vigorous breeding lines Vigor18 and B18 and the well-adapted commercial cultivar Janz were grown in glass-walled growth boxes in a controlled-temperature glasshouse up to the onset of stem elongation. In Expt 1, rooting parameters and detailed measurements of root growth and proliferation were made at 2-day intervals using a root mapping technique. In Expt 2 the glass-walled growth boxes were segmented into upper (0-0.2 m), middle (0.2-0.7 m), and bottom (0.7-1.0 m) soil layers, and the contribution of N fertiliser uptake by roots from each soil layer to the total plant N uptake was determined by applying 15N-urea to a single soil layer each time. The accumulated total root length across the soil profile from the 1-leaf stage to the onset of stem elongation was 33-83% higher in the vigorous lines Vigor18 and B18 than in Janz. The roots of the 3 genotypes grew vertically down the soil profile at a similar rate, but the roots of vigorous lines branched earlier and grew horizontally faster and more extensively than those of cv. Janz, resulting in a greater root-length density and root number in the top 0.7-m soil layer. Uptake of N fertiliser by roots in the upper 0-0.2 m of the soil profile was 60-68% higher in the vigorous lines than in Janz. Roots of the vigorous lines located in the segment 0.2-0.7 m of the soil profile captured twice as much N fertiliser than those of Janz. Uptake of N fertiliser by roots in the lower 0.7-1.0 m of the soil profile was similar in the vigorous lines and Janz. This indicates that the early and more extensive horizontal growth of the roots in the 0.2-0.7 m of the soil profile was responsible for the superior uptake of N by the vigorous lines. The implications of these genotypic differences in root growth and proliferation and their relationship with the early acquisition of N are discussed with emphasis on their role in improving the efficiency of N fertiliser uptake and reducing nitrate leaching, particularly in the sandy soils of the Mediterranean climatic region of Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberAR05439
Pages (from-to)1097-1107
Number of pages11
Journal Australian Journal of Agricultural Research
Volume57
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes

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