Lentil is a protein-rich pulse, grown mainly in developing countries as a rain-fed crop in nutrient-poor soils. Hence, the importance of root traits for efficient capture of soil nutrients and water can be crucial to its economical yield. Little is known about the lentil root system and even less about its relationship to grain yield. We compared the root system of two Bangladeshi lentil varieties, Barimasur-3 (BM-3) and Barimasur-4 (BM-4), in a pot experiment and related it to their multi-location grain yield in the fields. BM-4 maintained faster root development both at an early growth stage (20 days after sowing) and at flowering (60 days) compared to BM-3. The roots of BIA-4 penetrated the 25 cm depth of the soil profile after 19 +/- 1 days and while those of BM-3 took 24 +/- 2 days to reach the same depth. The roots of BM-4 were covered with denser (26 +/- 3 mm(-1)) and longer (0.48 +/- 0.11) root hairs than BM-3 (density 17 +/- 2 mm(-1), length 0.32 +/- 0.09 mm). The differential presence of root hairs increased the effective length of root system of BM-4 by 12 times and that of BM-3 by five times. The lentil varieties did not differ in their ability to induce pH change and acid phosphatase activity in rhizosphere. In the pot experiment, the uptake of macro-nutrients (K, P, Ca, and Mg) as well as micro-nutrients (Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B and Mo) by BM-4 was significantly higher, compared to BM-3. The varieties produced the same amount of shoot biomass. At five of six agro-ecological distinct field locations in Bangladesh, BM-4 gave significantly higher (10-20%) grain yield than BM-3. Linked with the higher grain yield, the benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of BM-4 was 3.14 and that of BM-3 were 2.62, indicating that BM-4 provided better return per unit investment, compared to BM-3, supported by the better root morphology and higher nutrient uptake. This may be one of the reasons supporting the popularity and preferred adoption of BM-4 among the Bangladeshi farmers, who grow lentil mainly on nutrient-poor soils. The results indicate the benefits of selection and breeding for superior root traits for better agro-economics.
Gahoonia, T. S., Ali, O., Sarker, A., Rahman, M. M., & Erskine, W. (2005). Root traits, nutrient uptake, multi-location grain yield and benefit-cost ratio of two lentil (Lens culinaris, Medikus) varieties. Plant and Soil, 272(1/2), 153-161. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-004-4573-x