Dynamic root growth in response to depth-varying soil moisture availability: a rhizobox study

Cynthia Maan*, Marie-claire ten Veldhuis, Bas J.H. van de Wiel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Plant roots are highly adaptable, but their adaptability is not included in crop and land surface models. They rely on a simplified representation of root growth, which is independent of soil moisture availability. Data of subsurface processes and interactions, needed for model setup and validation, are scarce. Here we investigated soil-moisture-driven root growth. To this end, we installed subsurface drip lines and small soil moisture sensors (0.2 L measurement volume) inside rhizoboxes (length × width × height of 45 × 7.5 × 45 cm). The development of the vertical soil moisture and root growth profiles is tracked with a high spatial and temporal resolution. The results confirm that root growth is predominantly driven by vertical soil moisture distribution, while influencing soil moisture at the same time. Besides support for the functional relationship between the soil moisture and the root density growth rate, the experiments also suggest that the extension of the maximum rooting depth will stop if the soil moisture at the root tip drops below a threshold value. We show that even a parsimonious one-dimensional water balance model, driven by the water input flux (irrigation), can be convincingly improved by implementing root growth driven by soil moisture availability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2341–2355
Number of pages15
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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