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How do different root structures affect soil? Root architecture, formation play key roles

Plant roots modify soil in different ways – depending on the root’s architecture. This Soil Science Society of America’s (SSSA) February 1st Soils Matter Blog explores plant roots and how plants modify soil in substantive ways.

Blogger Jake Mowrer explains, “Plants modify soil. That is a fact. They spend a lot of energy doing it, and they do it to their own advantage. Organisms (which, of course, include plants) are even one of the five soil formation factors, along with climate, relief/topography, parent material, and time.”

The term “root architecture” can include physical arrangement of roots, number, thickness, length, depth, angles of branching, and distribution of root orders. The primary root is called the seminal root, and roots that branch off the seminal root are called the first order laterals. Roots that branch off from first order laterals are called second order laterals. The portion of the soil most explored, the depth, and the lateral reach of a plant’s root system all affect how different plants physically modify soil in different ways.

There are many reasons why scientists ‘go down the rabbit hole’ with roots. They are the unseen half of the plants, and so represent a great mystery even in today’s technologically advanced world. We don’t know all the functions they perform and what benefits we may gain from understanding them better. We do know that roots are the primary means for resource acquisition by plants, that they release many complex chemical compounds into the soil that affect carbon storage and influence other soil organisms, and that they leave the soil changed after the interaction.

To learn more, read the entire blog here.

Source: Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)
Photo: Old Farmers Almanac
Note: Follow SSSA on Facebook at SSSA.soils, and Twitter at SSSA_Soils. SSSA has soils information on, for teachers at, and for students through 12th grade,

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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