Root morphology and its contribution to a large root system for phosphorus uptake by Rytidosperma species (wallaby grass)

Heidi A. Waddell, Richard J. Simpson, Megan H. Ryan, Hans Lambers, Denys L. Garden, Alan E. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: Rytidosperma species are native Australian grasses which have different growth rates and phosphorus (P) requirements. This study examined the role of root morphology traits in response to P supply. Methods: Nine Rytidosperma species ranging from slow- to fast-growth were examined along with Lolium perenne and Bromus hordeaceus. Plants were grown in a glasshouse for 47 days in soil supplied with six levels of P between 0 and 60 mg P per pot. Root mass, length and diameter, root hair length and density, and extent of mycorrhizal colonisation were measured. Results: Across all species there was a positive correlation (P < 0.001) between P uptake and root mass, length and root hair cylinder volume (RHCV; estimated using root diameter, root hair length and root length) at all levels of P supply. An exception was the RHCV of B. hordeaceus, where expected P uptake was not achieved due to a markedly reduced root length at low-P supply. For the Rytidosperma species, morphological plasticity for specific root length, root mass fraction and root hair length ranged from 1.5-fold to 2.7-fold between high- and low-P supply. However, across all species and P levels no single root morphological trait was identified for universally increasing the size of the root system and P uptake. Conclusions: Fast-growing species took up more P as a result of an overall larger root mass, greater root length and larger RHCV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-19
Number of pages13
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


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