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Opportunities and challenges in the subsoil: pathways to deeper rooted crops

Authors:

Lynch JP, T Wojciechowski

Source:

J Experimental Botany, 2015
doi: 10.1093/jxb/eru508 

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Open Access
 

Abstract:

Greater exploitation of subsoil resources by annual crops would afford multiple benefits, including greater water and N acquisition in most agroecosystems, and greater sequestration of atmospheric C. Constraints to root growth in the subsoil include soil acidity (an edaphic stress complex consisting of toxic levels of Al, inadequate levels of P and Ca, and often toxic levels of Mn), soil compaction, hypoxia, and suboptimal temperature. Multiple root phenes under genetic control are associated with adaptation to these constraints, opening the possibility of breeding annual crops with root traits improving subsoil exploration. Adaptation to Al toxicity, hypoxia, and P deficiency are intensively researched; adaptation to soil hardness and suboptimal temperature less so, and adaptations to Ca deficiency and Mn toxicity are poorly understood. The utility of specific phene states may vary among soil taxa and management scenarios, interactions which in general are poorly understood. These traits and issues merit research because of their potential value in developing more productive, sustainable, benign, and resilient agricultural systems.