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Architectural Root Responses of Rice to Reduced Water Availability Can Overcome Phosphorus Stress

De Bauw, Pieterjan, Vandamme, Elke, Lupembe, Allen, Mwakasege, Leah, Senthilkumar, Kalimuthu, Merckx, Roel
Agronomy 2018 v.9 no.1
Oryza sativa, branching, crop production, drought, field experimentation, nutrient uptake, phosphorus, rice, root growth, root shoot ratio, roots, shoots, soil, submergence, water stress
Drought and low phosphorus (P) availability are major limitations for rainfed rice production. Crop roots are important for soil resource acquisition and tolerance to P and water limitations. Two pot and two field trials were conducted to evaluate architectural root responses of contrasting rice varieties to combinations of different levels of P (deficient to non-limiting) and water availability (water stressed to submergence) and to identify the interactions with different varieties. Root development was then related to drought and/or low P tolerance. Although shoot and root growth responded more to P than to water availability, architectural root responses to water were much more prominent than responses to P availability. Reduced water availability decreased nodal thickness and increased secondary root branching, both factors partially enhancing P uptake efficiency and even overcoming a decreased root:shoot ratio under reduced water availability. In contrast to root thickness and secondary branching, basal lateral root density was strongly determined by variety and was related to enhanced P uptake. Reduced water availability induces root modifications which—apart from enhancing drought resilience—also affect P uptake efficiency. Future research on rice roots and nutrient uptake may hence take into account the large effects of water on root development.