Linking root structure to functionality: the impact of root system architecture on citrate enhanced phosphate uptake

Daniel McKay Fletcher, Siul Aljadi Ruiz, Tiago Gerheim Souza Dias, Chiara Petroselli, Tiina Roose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Root citrate exudation is thought to be important for phosphate solubilization. Previous research has concluded that cluster-like roots benefit most from this exudation in terms of increased phosphate uptake, suggesting that root structure plays an important role in citrate-enhanced uptake (additional phosphate uptake due to citrate exudation). Time-resolved computed tomography images of wheat root systems were used as the geometry for 3D citrate-phosphate solubilization models. Citrate-enhanced uptake was correlated with morphological measures of the root systems to determine which had the most benefit. A large variation of citrate-enhanced uptake over 11 root structures was observed. Root surface area dominated absolute phosphate uptake, but did not explain citrate-enhanced uptake. Number of exuding root tips correlated well with citrate-enhanced uptake. Root tips in close proximity could collectively exude high amounts of citrate, resulting in a delayed spike in citrate-enhanced uptake. Root system architecture plays an important role in citrate-enhanced uptake. Singular morphological measurements of the root systems cannot entirely explain variations in citrate-enhanced uptake. Root systems with many tips would benefit greatly from citrate exudation. Quantifying citrate-enhanced uptake experimentally is difficult as variations in root surface area would overwhelm citrate benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-391
Number of pages16
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPrint publication - 1 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • abiotic stress
  • citrate
  • exudation
  • modelling
  • phosphorus
  • root system architecture


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