Imaging microstructure of the barley rhizosphere: particle packing and root hair influences

Nicolai Koebernick, Keith R Daly, Samuel D Keyes, Anthony G Bengough, Lawrie K Brown, Laura J Cooper, Timothy S George, Paul D Hallett, Muhammad Naveed, Annette Raffan, Tiina Roose (Corresponding Author)

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46 Citations (Scopus)
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Soil adjacent to roots has distinct structural and physical properties from bulk soil, affecting water and solute acquisition by plants. Detailed knowledge on how root activity and traits such as root hairs affect the 3D pore structure at a fine scale is scarce and often contradictory. Roots of hairless barley (Hordeum vulgare L. cv 'Optic') mutant (NRH) and its wildtype (WT) parent were grown in tubes of sieved (<250 μm) sandy loam soil under two different water regimes. The tubes were scanned with synchrotron based X-ray CT to visualise pore structure at the soil-root interface. Pore volume fraction and pore size distribution were analysed versus distance within 1 mm of the root surface. Less dense packing packing of particles at the root-surface was hypothesised to cause the observed increased pore volume fraction immediately next to the epidermis. The pore size distribution was narrower due to a decreased fraction of larger pores. There were no statistically significant differences in pore structure between genotypes or moisture conditions. A model is proposed that describes the variation in porosity near roots taking into account soil compaction and the surface effect at the root surface. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1878-1889
Number of pages11
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
Early online date20 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

NK, LJC, TR and IS are funded by BBSRC SARISA BB/L025620/1. KRD is funded by ERC 646809DIMR. LKB, PDH, TSG, MN and AR are funded by BBSRC BB/J00868/1 and AGB is funded by BB/L025825/1. The James Hutton Institute receives financial support from the Rural & Environment Science & Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government. IS and TR are also funded by EPSRC EP/M020355/1. TR is also funded by ERC 646809DIMR, BBSRC SARIC BB/P004180/1 and NERC NE/L00237/1. The authors acknowledge the use of the I13 beamline at Diamond Light Source, Oxfordshire, UK (Experiment MT12525). We would like to thank Dr. Shashidara Marathe and Dr. Silvia Cipiccia, who provided considerable help during our beamtime. We would also like to thank Ian Sinclair for advice in preparation of the beamtime and Mike Ogden for help at the beamline.


  • root hairs
  • rhizosphere
  • Hordeum vulgare
  • noninvasive imaging
  • synchrotron
  • soil structure
  • particle packing


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