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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Can Root System Characteristics Change Water Use Efficiency? - An Experimental and Genetic Challenge

Authors
item McMichael, Bobbie
item Upchurch, Dan

Submitted to: Agronomy Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 1999
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: The dynamics of water uptake by plant root systems and the implications of changes in water uptake patterns on plant productivity has been the subject of a number of research investigations. Many strategies have also been suggested for making the root system more efficient not only for water uptake but also for maintaining the plant in a more favorable condition for rgrowth and productivity and thus improving water-use-efficiency. These strategies have ranged from increasing root length, root branching and root density in an effort to increase or maintain the water supply for the plant under a range of environmental demands. We have gathered information from studies on a number of crop plants that suggest that, in many cases, the root system possesses the potential capacity to supply water to meet even extreme environmental demands. However, this potential may not be expressed due to a number of possible factors such as the development of embolisms that may render a portion of the root systems non-functional in terms of the ability to transport water at any point in time. Other factors such as changes in fertility, soil temperature relationships, and soil water content can influence the potential capacity. The challenge therefore is to not only understand experimentally the function of various factors that impact the capacity of the root system to supply water and influence water-use-efficiency, but to also begin to genetically manipulate root characteristics for improving plant water relations.

Last Modified: 10/23/2014
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