diagram showing the impact of different management options

Root system based limitations to agriculture

Improving root systems can be a step towards sustainable intensification in crop production. Using the contrasting wheat cropping systems of Australia and Denmark as examples, Thorup-Kristensen et al. find that increased rooting depth is the most promising trait for improved water and nitrogen use. Root systems and depth can be improved through genetics and breeding.

diagram showing the impact of different management options
Schematic diagram showing the impact of different management options during the pre-crop (lucerne vs. cereal), transition (weed control vs. no control) and current crop (late vs. early sowing) phases on the water availability and yield of the subsequent wheat crop in Australia. Full details in Thorup-Kristensen et al. (2016).

This review finds that contrasting cropping systems, together with effective agricultural management schemes, frequently have a greater impact on the successful development of deeper, thriving root systems. The extent of the deeper rooting is also shown to be determined by the management of both crop and field in the months and years before crop production, by affecting the availability of nutritional resources in the lower soil layers.

Root Biology Issue This paper is part of the Root Biology Special Issue.


The Annals of Botany Office is based at the University of Oxford.

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