The quantitative importance of key root traits for radial water loss under low water potential

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Aims
Root tissue water can be lost to the dry topsoil via radial water loss (RWL) resulting in root shrinking and loss of contact with the rhizosphere. The root barrier to radial oxygen loss (ROL) has been shown to restrict RWL, therefore we hypothesized that the inducible barrier can be formed as a response to low soil water potential and play a role, together with other root traits, in restricting RWL.

Methods
Rice and wheat were grown in hydroponics with contrasting water potential to diagnose ROL barrier formation and to explore how key root traits (ROL barrier, root diameter, root porosity) affect RWL. Moreover, we developed a numerical model predicting RWL as a function of root diameter, root porosity and presence of a barrier to ROL.

Results
Methylene blue staining showed that low water potential induced a ROL barrier formation in roots of rice, and also resulted in an apoplastic barrier, as identified by the apoplastic tracer periodic acid. The barrier significantly restricted RWL, but root diameter and tissue porosity also influenced RWL. Our numerical model was able to reflect the empirical data and clearly demonstrated that thick roots and a barrier to ROL restricts RWL while cortical porosity accelerates RWL.

Conclusions
Our modelling approach highlighted that increase in root tissue porosity, a common response to drought, conserves water when new roots are formed, but the higher desiccation risk related to high-porosity roots can be effectively counteracted by forming thick roots or even better, by a barrier to ROL.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant and Soil
Volume482
Number of pages18
ISSN0032-079X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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