Root characteristics of selected field crops: data from the Wageningen Rhizolab (1990-2002)

A.L. Smit, J. Groenwold

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    Since being built in 1990, the rhizotron facility in Wageningen, the Wageningen Rhizolab, has been used for experiments on crops (e.g. Alfalfa, Brussels sprouts, common velvet grass, field bean, fodder radish, leeks, lupins, maize, potato, beetroot, ryegrass, spinach, spring wheat, winter rye and winter wheat). In the experiments, horizontal glass minirhizotron tubes combined with auger sampling were used to assess rooting characteristics. For this paper we took the root data from these experiments and looked for a general relationship between thermal time/time after planting and rooting depth, the velocity of the root front and root proliferation. For certain depths (fixed by the depth at which the horizontal minirhizotrons were installed) a simple linear regression was established between the average root number per cm2 minirhizotron surface area and thermal time after planting. The compartments selected for each crop were those in which there had been a control treatment and/or in which conditions for rooting were considered to be optimal. We performed regression analyses per compartment and per depth, but only for the period after planting in which a linear increase of root numbers vs. thermal time was observed. After averaging the results, the regression procedure yielded two parameters of rooting for each crop: (a) the actual or thermal time at which the first root appeared at a certain depth and (b) the root proliferation rate after the first root had appeared. In this way, inherent crop differences in rooting behaviour (rooting depth and root proliferation) became apparent. For each crop, the velocity of the root front after planting could be established (calculated in cm(°C day)-1). This parameter differed greatly between crops. Some crops (such as leeks and common velvet grass) explored the soil profile slowly: the root front moved at a velocity of only 0.07cm(°C day)-1. Among the crops whose roots grew down much faster (0.18-0.26cm (°C day)-1) were cereals and fodder radish. For a day with an average temperature of 15°C these rates would have corresponded with the root front travelling approximately 1-4cm per day. In the crops studied the root front velocity did not correlate with the root proliferation rate
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)365-384
    JournalPlant and Soil
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


    • nitrogen catch crops
    • shoot-atmosphere interactions
    • nematodes globodera-pallida
    • brussels-sprouts
    • cyst nematodes
    • succeeding crop
    • winter-wheat
    • soil-water
    • growth
    • dynamics


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