Unraveling root and rhizosphere traits in temperate maize landraces and modern cultivars: Implications for soil resource acquisition and drought adaptation

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  • Andreas J. Wild
  • Franziska A. Steiner
  • Marvin Kiene
  • Nicolas Tyborski
  • Shu-Yin Tung
  • Tina Koehler
  • Andrea Carminati
  • Barbara Eder
  • Jennifer Groth
  • Wouter K. Vahl
  • Sebastian Wolfrum
  • Tillmann Lueders
  • Christian Laforsch
  • Müller, Carsten W.
  • Alix Vidal
  • Johanna Pausch

A holistic understanding of plant strategies to acquire soil resources is pivotal in achieving sustainable food security. However, we lack knowledge about variety-specific root and rhizosphere traits for resource acquisition, their plasticity and adaptation to drought. We conducted a greenhouse experiment to phenotype root and rhizosphere traits (mean root diameter [Root D], specific root length [SRL], root tissue density, root nitrogen content, specific rhizosheath mass [SRM], arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi [AMF] colonization) of 16 landraces and 22 modern cultivars of temperate maize (Zea mays L.). Our results demonstrate that landraces and modern cultivars diverge in their root and rhizosphere traits. Although landraces follow a ‘do-it-yourself’ strategy with high SRLs, modern cultivars exhibit an ‘outsourcing’ strategy with increased mean Root Ds and a tendency towards increased root colonization by AMF. We further identified that SRM indicates an ‘outsourcing’ strategy. Additionally, landraces were more drought-responsive compared to modern cultivars based on multitrait response indices. We suggest that breeding leads to distinct resource acquisition strategies between temperate maize varieties. Future breeding efforts should increasingly target root and rhizosphere economics, with SRM serving as a valuable proxy for identifying varieties employing an outsourcing resource acquisition strategy.

TidsskriftPlant Cell and Environment
Antal sider16
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 2024

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the TU Munich research farm in Dürnast for providing soil material for the experiment. A warm‐hearted thank you to Angelika Mergner and Ilse Thaufelder for their indispensable technical support in the lab, and we thank Bastian Fichtl and Lionora Suß for their participation in data collection. Furthermore, we would like to thank Annette Freibauer and the Institute for Crop Science and Plant Breeding (LfL) for the smooth running of the experiment under the adverse conditions of the COVID‐19 lockdown, as well as the numerous students and colleagues who supported the RhizoTraits team during sampling. This research was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Rhizosphere traits enhancing yield resilience to drought in modern cropping systems; RhizoTraits − 031B0908). Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Plant, Cell & Environment published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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