Root anatomical traits contribute to deeper rooting of maize under compacted field conditions

Dorien J. Vanhees, Kenneth W. Loades, A. Glyn Bengough, Sacha Mooney (Lead / Corresponding author), Jonathan P. Lynch (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
82 Downloads (Pure)


To better understand the role of root anatomy in regulating plant adaptation to soil mechanical impedance, 12 maize lines were evaluated in two soils with and without compaction treatments under field conditions. Penetrometer resistance was 1-2 MPa greater in the surface 30 cm of the compacted plots at a water content of 17-20% (v/v). Root thickening in response to compaction varied among genotypes and was negatively associated with rooting depth at one field site under non-compacted plots. Thickening was not associated with rooting depth on compacted plots. Genotypic variation in root anatomy was related to rooting depth. Deeper-rooting plants were associated with reduced cortical cell file number in combination with greater mid cortical cell area for node 3 roots. For node 4, roots with increased aerenchyma were deeper roots. A greater influence of anatomy on rooting depth was observed for the thinner root classes. We found no evidence that root thickening is related to deeper rooting in compacted soil; however, anatomical traits are important, especially for thinner root classes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4243-4257
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number14
Early online date18 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2020


  • Aerenchyma
  • Compaction
  • Cortical cell file number
  • Root class
  • Rooting depth
  • Thickening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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