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The Wageningen Rhizolab: A facility to study soil-root-shoot-atmosphere interactions in crops: II. Methods of root observations


, : The Wageningen Rhizolab: A facility to study soil-root-shoot-atmosphere interactions in crops: II. Methods of root observations. Plant & Soil 161(2): 289-298

Roots in the Wageningen Rhizolab are observed using two methods: (i) non-destructively, using horizontal, glass minirhizotrons at intervals of 14 days between observations; (ii) with destructive sampling using augers on three dates in the season. This paper reports changes with depth and time in root numbers per unit interface area of the minirhizotron tube (number of intersections) of four crop species (wheat, Brussels sprouts, leek and potato). The number of root intersections of Brussels sprouts, wheat and potato declined with depth at any time, whereas leek showed a different pattern because maximum root growth was observed at a depth of 10-20 cm. Root density generally decreased in the following order: Brussels sprouts, wheat. potato and leek. Plots of root length densities, L-rv(cm. cm-3), obtained by auger sampling, versus the number of intersections showed considerable variation in slope with species, time in the season and year, implying that a single, universal equation to convert minirhizotron observations into volumetric root densities does not exist. Causes of variation in the slopes are discussed. It is concluded that limited auger sampling combined with minirhizotron observations yield adequate quantitative estimates of relevant root properties.

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