Root age influences failure location in grass species during mechanical testing

David Boldrin, Anthony Glyn Bengough, Zijian Lin, Kenneth Wilhelmus Loades

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
75 Downloads (Pure)


Aims: Root tensile tests are often rejected if failure location is outside the middle section of samples. This study aims to identify where and why failure occurs along a root axis, and hence to revisit current approaches to test-validity.

Methods: Roots from Festuca arundinacea; Lolium multiflorum; Lolium perenne were sampled from field-grown plants. Roots were tensile tested using a universal testing machine. Root samples were randomly allocated into two groups for testing. Group 1 roots were orientated with the older tissue closest to the top clamp, group 2 roots were orientated oppositely. Tensile strength, Young’s modulus and failure location were recorded for each sample.

Results: Lolium multiflorum roots were thinner and stronger than roots of Festuca arundinacea. Failure location in tensile tests depended significantly on tissue age with 75% of samples failing in the younger third of root tissue regardless of the root orientation in the testing frame. Only 7% of roots failed in the middle third of the sample.

Conclusions: Fibrous roots tested in tension were observed to consistently fail in the younger tissue along the root axis. Exclusion of samples which fail outside the middle region of the root axis needs re-evaluation for a range of species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-469
Number of pages13
JournalPlant and Soil
Early online date30 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Biomechanical properties
  • Eco-engineering
  • Failure location
  • Mechanical testing
  • Root age
  • Root clamping
  • Soil bioengineering
  • Tensile strength
  • Young’s modulus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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