Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Management Strategies to Sustain Irrigated Agriculture with Limited Water Supplies

Location: Water Management and Systems Research

Title: Root traits contributing to plant productivity under drought

item Comas, Louise
item Becker, Steve
item Cruz, Von Mark
item Byrne, Patrick
item Dierig, David

Submitted to: Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops Conference
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/5/2013
Publication Date: 10/13/2013
Citation: Comas, L.H., Becker, S.R., Cruz, V.V., Byrne, P.F., Dierig, D.A. 2013. Root traits contributing to plant productivity under drought. Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops, Washington, DC, Oct 13-16, 2013

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: ROOT TRAITS CONTRIBUTING TO PLANT PRODUCTIVITY UNDER DROUGHT L.H. Comas1, S.R. Becker2, V.M.V. Cruz3,4, P.F. Byrne2, D.A. Dierig3 1USDA-ARS, Water Management Research Unit, Fort Collins, CO, USA 2Colorado State University, Soil and Crop Sciences, Fort Collins, CO, USA 3USDA-ARS, National Center for Genetic Resource Preservation, Fort Collins, CO, USA 4Colorado State University, Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Fort Collins, CO, USA Breeding plants with roots that more effectively take up water from soil and make it available to leaves is critical for increasing crop productivity. However, we need a better understanding of root traits and when they benefit plants. Root traits that generally benefit plants under drought stress include small root diameters, long specific root length (root length per weight), great root length density (root length per soil volume), and deep rooting (if deep soil water is available). Anatomical traits that make xylem more air tight and less prone to cavitation can also benefit plants grown with limited water without plant costs or limitations in wet conditions. Fast root growth in response to soil water may benefit plants experiencing episodic drought. Several recent reviews have covered methods for screening root traits but, to screen effectively, breeders need to understand the organization and complexity of root systems. Screening of root traits at early stages in plant development may provide information on traits at mature stages but verification is needed on a case by case basis. The genetic control of many root traits should allow breeders to breed them into plant lines. Contact: L.H. Comas, USDA-ARS WMR, 2150 Centre Ave, Bldg D, Suite 320 Fort Collins, CO 80526 USA. Tel: 1-970-492-7416. E-mail:

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page