Tradeoffs among phosphorus-acquisition root traits of crop species for agroecological intensification

Nicolas Honvault, David Houben, Cecile Nobile, Stephane Firmin, Hans Lambers, Michel-Pierre Faucon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Aims Plant P acquisition strategies are driven by multiple belowground morphological and physiological traits as well as interactions among these traits. This study aimed to characterize the relationships among traits involved in P acquisition to explore tradeoffs and the main P-acquisition strategies and their mediation by soil type. Methods Ten morphological and physiological traits involved in P acquisition were measured across 13 species grown in controlled conditions in two contrasting soils with moderate P limitation. Results Tradeoffs between thicker and thinner roots were observed, with thicker roots exhibiting greater carboxylate release or phosphatase activity in the rhizosheath. Tradeoffs and coordination amongst traits were strongly mediated by soil type. Multivariate analysis of functional traits involved in P acquisition highlighted four main P-acquisition strategies relying primarily on morphological traits, physiological traits or a combination thereof. Conclusions The diversity of strategies demonstrates a potential for functional diversity benefits in cultivated plant communities via preferential access to different P pools leading to complementarities and reduced competition for resource acquisition. Overall, our results underpin functionally-complementary multispecies crop designs, enhancing P availability and cycling efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-150
Number of pages14
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


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