Role of fine roots in plant growth recognized

Role of fine roots in plant growth recognized

The plant's appearance reveals nothing about its roots, according to a study. More attention should be paid to the characteristics of fine roots in future development forecasts.

Die Sonnenblume ist äußerst anfällig gegen Krankheiten. Forscher wollen das ändern.
The sunflower's appearance reveals nothing about its root system: the fine roots are more like those of pine trees, a study shows.

For researchers, plant characteristics such as growth height, seed size, photosynthetic performance or flower color are crucial factors in finding out how plants adapt to their environment or how they can respond to future climatic changes. However, it it is not only the appearance of a plant that is crucial for its development, but also the invisible part - the root system. So what does the appearance of the plant reveal about the roots? Is there a connection between the upper and lower features? These questions have been investigated by an international team of researchers with the participation of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.

No conclusions from upper to lower plant characteristics

As part of the study, the team looked at data from diverse plant species from around the world and linked above-ground plant characteristics such as height and seed size with fine root characteristics such as diameter and nitrogen content. The result: there was no direct correlation between the two. "The surprising result contradicts the common thesis that all characteristics of a plant are coordinated. Apparently there is no universal, simple correlation between all above- and below-ground plant characteristics," explained study leader Carlos Carmona of the University of Tartu.

Characteristics of fine roots in plant growth

The researchers found that above ground, there are many different plant traits and characteristic patterns, but in soil, most species are very similar. Sunflowers and pines, for example, are similar in terms of their fine roots. However, the above-ground characteristics are very different. In comparison, parsnips and bluebells are quite similar above ground, but have very different fine roots, the team writes in the journal Nature.

The researchers also looked more closely at the development of fine roots, which has been neglected in previous research. They therefore propose that their findings be used for new research on plants and call for greater consideration to be given to the properties of fine roots when predicting the development of plant species in the future.