The effect of root exudates on rhizosphere water dynamics

L. J. Cooper, K. R. Daly, P. D. Hallett, N. Koebernick, T. S. George, T. Roose

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)
    126 Downloads (Pure)


    Most water and nutrients essential for plant growth travel across a thin zone of soil at the interface between roots and soil, termed the rhizosphere. Chemicals exuded by plant roots can alter the fluid properties, such as viscosity, of the water phase, potentially with impacts on plant productivity and stress tolerance. In this paper, we study the effects of plant exudates on the macroscale properties of water movement in soil. Our starting point is a microscale description of two fluid flow and exudate diffusion in a periodic geometry composed from a regular repetition of a unit cell. Using multiscale homogenization theory, we derive a coupled set of equations that describe the movement of air and water, and the diffusion of plant exudates on the macroscale. These equations are parametrized by a set of cell problems that capture the flow behaviour. The mathematical steps are validated by comparing the resulting homogenized equations to the original pore scale equations, and we show that the difference between the two models is 7% for eight cells. The resulting equations provide a computationally efficient method to study plant–soil interactions. This will increase our ability to predict how contrasting root exudation patterns may influence crop uptake of water and nutrients.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20180149
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
    Issue number2217
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2018


    • Homogenization
    • Porous media
    • Richards’ equation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Mathematics
    • General Engineering
    • General Physics and Astronomy


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