Potato rooting and rhizosphere

The role of potato rooting and rhizosphere microorganisms in mineral nutrients acquisition

Potato rooting characteristics to enhance resource capture

Potatoes require large fertiliser inputs and often require irrigation. One way to reduce these inputs is to cultivate genotypes that use resources more efficiently, either because they require less mineral nutrient in their tissues or because they yield with smaller inputs.

These abilities are affected by many factors, but rooting characteristics (such as increased root growth rate, specific root length, and density and length of root hairs) and rhizosphere biochemical processes (such as the exudation of organic acids and enzymes) are of fundamental importance. Understanding the physiological and genetic control of changes in these characteristics as a natural response to limited resource may provide opportunities to improve the acquisition of soil mineral nutrients and water by plants in conventional and organic systems.

Our initial approach has been to assess the ability of potatoes to explore the soil volume, by screening genotypes for rooting characteristics in the field. We have found significant differences in root length between commercial varieties. In future research, this trait might be exploited in breeding programmes for improved resource acquisition.

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