The spatial and temporal dynamics of root water uptake in nodal and seminal roots are poorly understood, especially in relation to root system development and aging. Here we non-destructively quantify 1) root water uptake and 2) root length of nodal and seminal roots of barley in three dimensions during 43 days of growth. We developed a concentric split root system to hydraulically and physically isolate the seminal and nodal root systems. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), roots were visualized, root length was determined, and soil water depletion in both compartments was measured. From 19 days after germination and onwards, the nodal root system had greater water uptake compared to the seminal root system due to both greater root length and greater root conductivity. At 29 days after germination onwards, the average age of the seminal and nodal root systems was similar and no differences were observed in water uptake per root length between seminal and nodal root systems, indicating the importance of embryonic root systems for seedling establishment and nodal root systems in more mature plants. Since nodal roots perform the majority of water uptake at 29 days after germination and onwards, nodal root phenes merit consideration as a selection target to improve water capture in barley and possibly other crops.
- water uptake