Developing Existing Plant Root System Architecture Models to Meet Future Agricultural Challenges

L. Wu*, M. B. McGechan, C. A. Watson, J. A. Baddeley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Improving our understanding of the relationships between soil conditions and plant growth, both above and below ground, will contribute to the development of cropping systems that are less reliant on mineral fertilizers for crop nutrition. Although many models predicting the flows of nutrients between plants and soil have been developed, few of these deal in detail with root architecture and dynamics. In this chapter, we review seven widely cited models of root architecture and development in terms of their ability to improve predictions of plant and soil nutrient flows. We have examined processes related to root system architecture and development, compared mathematical expressions and parameters used in the selected models, and summarized common processes and parameters for simulating root systems. This outcome should benefit researchers and model developers, preventing the need to spend limited resources on repeating the same process. Detailed conclusions include the fact that both inter-branching distance and insertion angle are essential parameters for representing root architecture. Additionally, in a three-dimensional model an extra parameter, radial angle, should be used for determining the location of a branch relative to the root from which it originated. Root growth is simulated by elongation rate and elongation direction, with root component diameter also represented in some models. Almost all the three-dimensional models reviewed calculate the current direction of newly formed root segments using the previous direction of tip extension together with an angle related to geotropism. This review was carried out as the first stage in a research program on integrating root growth models with soil nutrient cycling models. For this purpose, the review suggests that, in order to optimize practical applications of these models in cropping systems, there is a need to integrate a number of additional processes, including root longevity and mortality, environmental responses, and effects of management such as tillage or the pesticide application regime. The form of root mortality relevant to nutrient cycling in soil is that due to natural senescence of root components. This differs from catastrophic death of roots due to attack by pathogenic fungi, which has been considered in one existing root model. To achieve the required objectives, there is also a need to strengthen the integration of above-ground plant component dynamics with root system development, particularly in relation to breeding new crop varieties for sustainable agricultural systems.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Agronomy
Number of pages39
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Dec 2005

Publication series

NameAdvances in Agronomy
ISSN (Print)0065-2113


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