Mycorrhizal impacts on root trait plasticity of six maize varieties along a phosphorus supply gradient

Xin-Xin Wang, Hongbo Li, Qun Chu, Gu Feng*, Thomas W. Kuyper, Zed Rengel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims: Plasticity of plants refers to their ability to produce different phenotypes in different environments. Plants show plasticity aboveground as well as belowground. The influence of the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) symbiosis on root plasticity is poorly known. This study aimed to quantify plasticity of root-system related, morphological, physiological or mycorrhizal traits along a soil phosphorus (P) supply gradient. Methods: Six varieties of maize (Zea mays L.) were grown in pots with or without AMF at five rates of P supply. Fifteen root traits were measured and calculated after seven weeks of growth. Results: Root system traits (biomass and length) and physiological traits (phosphatase activity at the root surface and in the rhizosphere) showed high plasticity along the P gradient, whereas morphological traits (specific root length and root diameter) exhibited low plasticity. Mycorrhizal presence reduced root-system plasticity (biomass and length), increased morphological-trait plasticity (specific root length and proportion of fine roots), but had little effects on other traits. Conclusion: Our results indicate that trait plasticity related to the root system constitutes the most important adaptive strategy for maize to variation in P supply, and that the mycorrhizal symbiosis reduces root-system plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71–86
JournalPlant and Soil
Early online date9 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Morphological traits
  • Physiological traits
  • Root/shoot ratio
  • Specific root length


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