Genetic and phenotypic associations between root architecture, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonisation and low phosphate tolerance in strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa)

Helen Maria Cockerton*, Bo Li, Eleftheria Stavridou, Abigail Johnson, Amanda Karlström, Andrew Douglas Armitage, Ana Martinez-Crucis, Lorena Galiano-Arjona, Nicola Harrison, Nuria Barber-Pérez, Magdalena Cobo-Medina, Richard Jonathan Harrison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Phosphate is an essential plant macronutrient required to achieve maximum crop yield. Roots are able to uptake soil phosphate from the immediate root area, thus creating a nutrient depletion zone. Many plants are able to exploit phosphate from beyond this root nutrient depletion zone through symbiotic association with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF). Here we characterise the relationship between root architecture, AMF association and low phosphate tolerance in strawberries. The contrasting root architecture in the parental strawberry cultivars 'Redgauntlet' and 'Hapil' was studied through a mapping population of 168 progeny. Low phosphate tolerance and AMF association was quantified for each genotype to allow assessment of the phenotypic and genotypic relationships between traits. Results: A "phosphate scavenging" root phenotype where individuals exhibit a high proportion of surface lateral roots was associated with a reduction in root system size across genotypes. A genetic correlation between "root system size" traits was observed with a network of pleiotropic QTL found to represent five "root system size" traits. By contrast, average root diameter and the distribution of roots appeared to be under two discrete methods of genetic control. A total of 18 QTL were associated with plant traits, 4 of which were associated with solidity that explained 46% of the observed variation. Investigations into the relationship between AMF association and root architecture found that a higher root density was associated with greater AMF colonisation across genotypes. However, no phenotypic correlation or genotypic association was found between low phosphate tolerance and the propensity for AMF association, nor root architectural traits when plants are grown under optimal nutrient conditions. Conclusions: Understanding the genetic relationships underpinning phosphate capture can inform the breeding of strawberry varieties with better nutrient use efficiency. Solid root systems were associated with greater AMF colonisation. However, low P-tolerance was not phenotypically or genotypically associated with root architecture traits in strawberry plants. Furthermore, a trade-off was observed between root system size and root architecture type, highlighting the energetic costs associated with a "phosphate scavenging" root architecture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154
JournalBMC Plant Biology
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • AMF
  • Image analysis
  • Length distribution
  • Macronutrients
  • Network
  • QTL
  • Rhizotron
  • Solidity
  • Symbiont
  • Trade-off


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