Biogeochemical, Biophysical, and Biological Processes in the Rhizosphere

Authored by: Philippe Hinsinger , Davey L. Jones , Petra Marschner

Handbook of Soil Sciences Resource Management and Environmental Impacts

Print publication date:  November  2011
Online publication date:  November  2011

Print ISBN: 9781439803073
eBook ISBN: 9781439803080
Adobe ISBN:


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The rhizosphere is defined as the zone of high biological and chemical activity in the soil that surrounds the living root (e.g., Curl and Truelove, 1986; Pinton et al., 2007; Dessaux et al., 2010). The rhizosphere is chemically, physically, and biologically different from the bulk soil because it has been modified by roots and the associated microorganisms (Table 6.1). Detailed knowledge of the processes in the rhizosphere is fundamental to understanding the interactions of plants with their environment and the development of sustainable agricultural and forestry production systems. Similarly, the rhizosphere is important for many other environmental issues including biosphere C sequestration, greenhouse gas mitigation, human pathogen transfer in the food chain, and the removal, stabilization, and transformation of pollutants in soil (Huang and Gobran, 2004; Cardon and Whitbeck, 2007; Hinsinger et al., 2009; Philippot et al., 2009b). Despite its importance in many ecosystem services, our understanding of the rhizosphere remains relatively poor (Dessaux et al., 2009, 2010). This is due to the intrinsic complexity of the rhizosphere where many thousands of linked processes are operating simultaneously in a highly heterogeneous soil matrix. Unraveling this complexity is a long-term scientific goal that will not be fully realized within our lifetime. Ultimately, however, understanding these processes will allow managing the rhizosphere to harness its natural potential for the sustainable management of ecosystems (Ryan et al., 2009; Wenzel, 2009; Dessaux et al., 2010).

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