Fractal geometry of root systems: field observations of contrasting genotypes of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) grown under different phosphorus regimes.


Nielsen, K.L.; Miller, C.R.; Beck, D.; Lynch, J.P.


Plant and Soil, Volume 206, Issue 2, p.181-190 (1998)

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Root growth and architecture are important for phosphorus (P) acquisition due to the relative immobility of P in the soil. Fractal geometry is a potential new approach to the analysis of root architecture. Substantial genetic variation in root growth and architecture has been observed in common beans ( Phaseolus vulgaris ). Bean cultivars with contrasting root architecture were grown under moderate and low P conditions in a field experiment in Colombia. Linear and planar fractal dimension were measured by tracing root intercepts with vertical planes. Linear fractal dimension increased over time in efficient cultivars, but remained fairly constant over time in inefficient cultivars. Planar fractal dimension increased over time for all cultivar, but was higher in efficient than inefficient cultivars at the end of the experiment. Planar fractal dimension of medium P plants was found to correlate with shoot P content indicating fractal dimension to be a possible indicator for root P uptake. The increasing fractal dimension over time indicates that fractal analysis is a sensitive measure of root branching intensity. A less destructive method for acquisition of data that allows for continuous analysis of fractal geometry and thereby screening for more P efficient cultivars in the field is suggested. This method will allow the researcher to conduct fractal analysis and still complete field trials with final yield evaluation.