The helical motions of roots are linked to avoidance of particle forces in soil

Adalvan D. Martins, Felicity O'Callaghan, A. Glyn Bengough, Kenneth W. Loades, Moacir Pasqual, Evelyne Kolb, Lionel X. Dupuy (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


Limitation to root growth results from forces required to overcome soil resistance to deformation. The variations in individual particle forces affects root development and often deflects the growth trajectory. We have developed transparent soil and optical projection tomography microscopy systems where measurements of growth trajectory and particle forces can be acquired in a granular medium at a range of confining pressures. We developed image-processing pipelines to analyse patterns in root trajectories and a stochastic-mechanical theory to establish how root deflections relate to particle forces and thickening of the root. Root thickening compensates for the increase in mean particle forces but does not prevent deflections from 5% of most extreme individual particle forces causing root deflection. The magnitude of deflections increases with pressure but they assemble into helices of conserved wavelength in response linked to gravitropism. The study reveals mechanisms for the understanding of root growth in mechanically impeding soil conditions and provides insights relevant to breeding of drought-resistant crops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2356-2367
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number6
Early online date6 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2020


  • biophysics
  • deflection
  • granular
  • mechanical stress
  • root
  • transparent soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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