Root hairs confer a competitive advantage under low phosphorus availability

Terence R. Bates, Jonathan P. Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

235 Scopus citations


Root hairs are presumably important in the acquisition of immobile soil resources such as phosphorus. The density and length of root hairs vary substantially within and between species, and are highly regulated by soil phosphorus availability, which suggests that at high nutrient availability, root hairs may have a neutral or negative impact on fitness. We used a root-hairless mutant of the small herbaceous dicot Arabidopsis thaliana to assess the effect of root hairs on plant competition under contrasting phosphorus regimes. Wildtype plants were grown with hairless plants in a replacement series design at high (60 μm phosphate in soil solution) and low (1 μm phosphate in soil solution) phosphorus availability. At high phosphorus availability, wildtype and mutant plants were equal in growth, phosphorus acquisition, fecundity and relative crowding coefficient (RCC). At low phosphorus availability, hairless plants accumulated less biomass and phosphorus, and produced less seed when planted with wildtype plants. Wildtype plants were unaffected by the presence of hairless plants in mixed genotype plantings. Wildtype plants had RCC values greater than one while hairless plants had RCC values less than one. We conclude that root hairs increase the competitiveness of plants under low phosphorus availability but do not reduce growth or competitiveness under high phosphorus availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-250
Number of pages8
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Root hairs confer a competitive advantage under low phosphorus availability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this