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Plant Roots: Growth, Activity and Interactions with the Soil

Plant Roots: Growth, Activity and Interactions with the Soil

Peter J. Gregory

ISBN: 978-1-405-17308-7 April 2008 Wiley-Blackwell 328 Pages




The root system is a vital part of the plant and therefore understanding roots and their functioning is key to agricultural, plant and soil scientists.

In Plant Roots Professor Peter Gregory brings together recent developments in techniques and an improved understanding of plant and soil interactions to present a comprehensive look at this important relationship, covering:

  • Root response to, and modification of, soils
  • Genetic control of roots’ responses to the environment
  • Use of modern techniques in imaging, molecular biology and analytical chemistry
  • Practical exploitation of root characters 

This book will be a vital tool for plant, crop, soil and agricultural scientists, plant physiologists, environmental scientists, ecologists and hydrologists. It will be a valuable addition to libraries in universities, agricultural colleges and research establishments where these subjects are studied and taught.


1. Plants, Roots and the Soil.

1.1 The evolution of roots.

1.2 Functional interdependence of roots and shoots.

1.2.1 Balanced growth of roots and shoots.

1.2.2 Communication between roots and shoots.

1.3 Roots and the soil.

1.3.1 The root-soil interface.

1.3.2 Root-induced soil processes..

2. Roots and the Architecture of Root Systems.

2.1 Nomenclature and types of root.

2.2 Root structure.

2.2.1 Primary structure.

2.2.2 Secondary structure.

2.3 Extension and branching.

2.3.1 Extension.

2.3.2 Branching.

2.3.3 Root hairs.

2.4 The root tip.

2.4.1 The root cap and border cells.

2.4.2 Mucilage.

2.5 Architecture of root systems..

3. Development and Growth of Root Systems.

3.1 Measurement of root systems.

3.1.1 Washed soil cores.

3.1.2 Rhizotrons and minirhizotrons.

3.1.3 Other techniques.

3.2 Root system development.

3.3 Size and distribution of root systems.

3.3.1 Mass and length.

3.3.2 Depth of rooting.

3.3.3 Distribution of roots.

3.4 Root:shoot allocation of dry matter.

3.5 Root longevity and turnover.

3.6 Modelling of root systems..

4. The Functioning Root System.

4.1 Root anchorage.

4.1.1 Uprooting.

4.1.2 Overturning.

4.2 Water uptake.

4.2.1 The concept of water potential.

4.2.2 The soil-plant-atmosphere continuum.

4.2.3 Water uptake by plant root systems.

4.3 Nutrient uptake.

4.3.1 Nutrient requirements of plants and the availability of nutrients.

4.3.2 Nutrient movement in soil solution.

4.3.3 Nutrient uptake and movement across the root.

4.3.4 Nutrient uptake by root systems..

5. Roots and the Physico-Chemical Environment.

5.1 Temperature.

5.1.1 Root development and growth.

5.1.2 Root orientation.

5.1.3 Other root functions.

5.2 Gravity and other tropistic responses.

5.2.1 Gravisensing and the response of roots.

5.2.2 Phototropism, hydrotropism and thigmotropism.

5.3 Soil mechanical properties.

5.3.1 Root elongation and mechanical impedance.

5.3.2 Root responses to mechanical impedance.

5.3.3 Roots and soil structure.

5.4 Soil pores and their contents.

5.4.1 Soil water.

5.4.2 Soil aeration.

5.4.3 Waterlogging and aerenchyma.

5.5 The soil chemical environment.

5.5.1 Plant nutrients.

5.5.2 Low pH and aluminium.

5.5.3 Salinity.

5.6 Atmospheric CO2 concentration..

6. Roots and the Biological Environment.

6.1 Interactions of roots with soil organisms.

6.1.1 Root-rhizosphere communication.

6.1.2 Interactions with bacteria.

6.1.3 Interactions with fungi.

6.1.4 Interactions with protozoa.

6.1.5 Interactions with nematodes and mesofauna.

6.2 Symbiotic associations.

6.2.1 Rhizobia and N fixation.

6.2.2 Mycorrhizas.

6.3 Root pathogens and parasitic associations.

6.3.1 Fungal diseases.

6.3.2 Nematodes.

6.3.3 Parasitic weeds.

6.4 Root herbivory by insects..

7. The Rhizosphere and Root Modification of Soils.

7.1 Rhizodeposition.

7.1.1 Quantities of rhizodeposits.

7.1.2 Composition of rhizodeposits.

7.1.3 Nitrogen rhizodeposits.

7.2 Chemical changes affecting nutrient acquisition.

7.2.1 Rhizosolution composition and replenishment.

7.2.2 Changes in pH.

7.2.3 Changes in redox conditions.

7.2.4 Root exudates and phytosiderophores.

7.2.5 Enzyme activity.

7.3 Physical changes in the rhizosphere.

7.3.1 Bulk density and porosity.

7.3.2 Water..

8. Genetic Control of Root System Properties.

8.1 Genotypic differences in root systems.

8.1.1 Size and architecture.

8.1.2 Functional properties.

8.2 Genetics of root systems.

8.2.1 Genetic control of root development and growth.

8.2.2 Genetic control of root properties.

8.3 Breeding better root systems.

8.3.1 Use of markers and QTL..

9. Root Systems as Management Tools.

9.1 Optimal root systems and competition for resources.

9.2 Intercropping and agroforestry.

9.3 Crop rotations.

9.3.1 Biological drilling.

9.3.2 Utilization of subsoil water.

9.3.3 Allelopathy.

9.3.4 Biofumigation by brassicas.

9.4 Phytoremediation.


"Each chapter provides detailed discussion backed up by numerous references, diagrams, graphs and tables . . . all of excellent quality. . . I expect Peter Gregory's very informative book to become the subject's standard text and in the possession of anyone interested in how roots grow and function."
Experimental Agriculture <!--end-->

"This marvelous book attempts to cover all aspects of plant root growth. This is a daunting task, but Professor Gregory has been very successful."

"With this book, we finally have an introductory book on plant roots that can be read, cover-to-cover, by undergraduate and/or graduate students and researchers..."

"This book builds chapter by chapter, leading the reader to a thorough understanding of the impact of roots on the environment and the environment on roots with its many attendant implications."
Richard W. Zobel in Crop Science, Volume 46, Issue 6, November-December 2006 (Crop Science Society of America)

"This book is very well designed for its target readership in advanced university or college courses that cover soil - plant relationships, as well as soil, plant, agricultural and environmental scientists who are seeking to widen their knowledge of root growth and functions. Like this reviewer, they will find many useful references for further reading. Last, and by no means least, the very clear style of writing means that the book should be attractive to readers whose native language is not english."
Annals of Botany, 1-2, 2007

"...plant roots are often forgotten even by botanists, who focus instead on foliage laves, frilly flowers, harvested fruit and the finale, and/or starting point, seeds. Author Gregory Peter, Director of the Scottish Crop Research Institute, is a root specialist...[hence]...Root anatomy and function are the subjects of this book. Each chapter provides numerous reverences, diagrams, graphs and tables, and one includes a series of colour photographs. This book will be a useful reference tool for plant, crop and soil scientists, plant physiologists, and ecologists. It will benefit libraries in Universities, agricultural colleges and plant research institutes."
Dorothea Bedigan in Plant Science Bulletin, Volume 53, Issue 2, July-August 2007.

  • Author is internationally known and respected for his work on roots
  • Fully comprehensive book covering an essential aspect of plant science
  • No other recent books available covering the area in this depth
  • Contains much new and exciting information on genetic control and root-soil interactions