The role of root architectural traits in adaptation of wheat to water-limited environments
Functional Plant Biology
Better understanding of root system structure and function is critical to crop improvement in water-limited environments. The aims of this study were to examine root system characteristics of two wheat genotypes contrasting in tolerance to water limitation and to assess the functional implications on adaptation to water-limited environments of any differences found. The drought tolerant barley variety, Mackay, was also included to allow inter-species comparison. Single plants were grown in
... were grown in large, soil-filled root-observation chambers. Root growth was monitored by digital imaging and water extraction was measured. Root architecture differed markedly among the genotypes. The drought-tolerant wheat (cv. SeriM82) had a compact root system, while roots of barley cv. Mackay occupied the largest soil volume. Relative to the standard wheat variety (Hartog), SeriM82 had a more uniform rooting pattern and greater root length at depth. Despite the more compact root architecture of SeriM82, total water extracted did not differ between wheat genotypes. To quantify the value of these adaptive traits, a simulation analysis was conducted with the cropping system model APSIM, for a wide range of environments in southern Queensland, Australia. The analysis indicated a mean relative yield benefit of 14.5% in water-deficit seasons. Each additional millimetre of water extracted during grain filling generated an extra 55 kg ha-1 of grain yield. The functional implications of root traits on temporal patterns and total amount of water capture, and their importance in crop adaptation to specific water-limited environments, are discussed.