Root cortical aerenchyma (RCA) is induced by hypoxia, drought, and several nutrient deficiencies. Previous research showed that RCA formation reduces the respiration and nutrient content of root tissue.We used SimRoot, a functional-structural model, to provide quantitative support for the hypothesis that RCA formation is a useful adaptation to suboptimal availability of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium by reducing the metabolic costs of soil exploration in maize (Zea mays). RCA increased the growth of simulated 40-d-old maize plants up to 55%, 54%, or 72% on low nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium soil, respectively, and reduced critical fertility levels by 13%, 12%, or 7%, respectively. The greater utility of RCA on low-potassium soils is associated with the fact that root growth in potassium-deficient plants was more carbon limited than in phosphorusand nitrogen-deficient plants. In contrast to potassium-deficient plants, phosphorus- and nitrogen-deficient plants allocate more carbon to the root system as the deficiency develops. The utility of RCA also depended on other root phenes and environmental factors. On low-phosphorus soils (7.5 mM), the utility of RCA was 2.9 times greater in plants with increased lateral branching density than in plants with normal branching. On low-nitrate soils, the utility of RCA formation was 56% greater in coarser soils with high nitrate leaching. Large genetic variation in RCA formation and the utility of RCA for a range of stresses position RCA as an interesting crop-breeding target for enhanced soil resource acquisition.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science