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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Precrop-treated soil influences wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) root system architecture and its response to drought

Cope, Jonathan E.; Berckx, Fede; Galinski, Anna; Lentz, Jonas; Nagel, Kerstin A.; Fiorani, Fabio; Weih, Martin


Aims Root system architecture (RSA) plays an important role in the plant's ability to sustain yield under abiotic stresses such as drought. Preceding crops (precrops) can affect the yield of the proceeding crop, partially by affecting the RSA. This experiment aims to explore the interactions between precrop identity, crop genotype and drought at early growth stages. Methods Rhizotrons, sized 60 x 80 x 3.5 cm, were used to assess the early root growth of two winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) genotypes, using precrop-treated soil around the seedlings and differing water regimes. The rhizotrons were automatically imaged 3 times a week to track root development. Results Precrop-treated soil affected the RSA and changes caused by the reduced water treatment (RWT) were different depending on the precrop. Largest of these was the 36% reduction in root depth after wheat, but 44% after OSR. This indicates that effects caused by the precrop can be simulated, at least partially, by transferring precrop-treated soils to controlled environments. The genotypes had differential RSA and reacted differently to the RWT, with Julius maintaining an 8.8-13.1% deeper root system compared to Brons in the RWT. In addition, the combined environmental treatment affected the genotypes differently. Conclusion Our results could help explain discrepancies found from using precrops to enhance yield as they indicate differences in the preceding crop effect when experiencing drought stress. Further, these differences are affected by genotypic interactions, which can be used to select and adapt crop genotypes for specific crop rotations, depending on the year. Additionally, we have shown a viable method of stimulating a partial precrop effect at the seedling stage in a controlled greenhouse setting using field soil around the germinated seed.


root system architecture; Triticum aestivum; precrop effect; water stress; rhizotron; GxE interaction

Published in

Frontiers in Plant Science
2024, Volume: 15, article number: 1389593