Reorganisation of rhizosphere soil pore structure by wild plant species in compacted soils

Jasmine E. Burr-Hersey, A. Glyn Bengough, Karl Ritz, Sacha J. Mooney (Lead / Corresponding author)

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15 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Soil compaction represents a major impediment to plant growth, yet wild plants are often observed thriving in high bulk density soil in non-agricultural settings. We analysed the root growth of three non-cultivated plant species often found growing in compacted soils in the natural environment. Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and spear thistle (Cirsium vulgare) plants were grown for 28 days in a sandy loam soil compacted to 1.8 g cm-3 with a penetration resistance of 1.55 MPa. X-ray Computed Tomography was used to observe root architecture in situ and visualise changes in rhizosphere porosity (at a resolution of 35 μm) at 14 and 28 days after sowing. Porosity of the soil was analysed within four incremental zones up to 420 μm from the root surface. In all species, the porosity of the rhizosphere was greatest closest to the root and decreased with distance from the root surface. There were significant differences in rhizosphere porosity between the three species, with Cirsium plants exhibiting the greatest structural genesis across all rhizosphere zones. This creation of pore space indicates plants can self-remediate compacted soil via localised structural reorganisation in the rhizosphere, which has potential functional implications for both plant and soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6107-6115
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number19
Early online date15 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2020


  • Cirsium vulgare
  • dandelion
  • Plantago lanceoloata
  • porosity
  • ribwort plantain
  • soil compaction
  • spear thistle
  • Taraxacum officianale
  • X-Ray Computer Tomography


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