Maize Roots Adapt to Different Tillage Practices, Chinese Study Finds

Release Time:2024-03-14 Big Small

A study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences has revealed how maize roots change their traits in response to different tillage practices, such as no tillage (NT) and conventional tillage (CT).

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, measured the traits of lateral roots - the main parts of the root system that absorb water and nutrients - at two growth stages. They found that lateral roots showed significant plasticity, or the ability to adjust to different conditions, under NT and CT.

The researchers say that NT, which involves leaving crop residues on the soil surface, is one of the solutions for soil conservation and food security. However, they also note that long-term NT may cause soil structure stratification, which can hinder root development.

They found that the lateral root traits exhibited varying degrees of plasticity across different growth stages. Specifically, root length, diameter, and root length density, which measures how much root is present in a given volume of soil, showed remarkable flexibility, fluctuating within a range of -22% to 20%.

They also found that soil penetration resistance, which measures how hard it is for roots to penetrate the soil, was reduced at the jointing stage and increased at the flowering stage under NT, especially at a depth of 10 - 40 cm.

They conclude that the complementary effects of these resource acquisition strategies are important for maize's efficient use of nutrients and soil health maintenance throughout the growing season. These findings underscore the need for tailored management practices that consider root traits and their dynamic responses to different tillage systems.

The research was supported by the Lishu Conservation Tillage Development Program.


YUE Qian

Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Tel: 86-24-83970317