Root Architecture and Resource Acquisition: Wheat as a Model Plant

Authored by: Ahmad M. Manschadi , Günther G.B. Manske , Paul L.G. Vlek

Plant Roots

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  April  2013

Print ISBN: 9781439846483
eBook ISBN: 9781439846490
Adobe ISBN:


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Producing 70% more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050 is one of the main challenges world agriculture will face in the coming decades (FAO 2009). Considering the escalating scarcity of natural resources, increasing water and nutrient use efficiency in crop plants is a key component of the strategy to sustainably enhance agricultural productivity and food production (Vlek et al. 1997; Tilman et al. 2002; Lynch 2007; Fageria et al. 2008; Falkenmark et al. 2009; Passioura and Angus 2010). The global average water use efficiency (grain yield per unit of seasonal evapotranspiration) of rain-fed wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), for instance, is currently only 32%–44% of attainable efficiency, as a result of deficiencies in soil mineral nutrients and inadequate crop/soil management practices (Sadras and Angus 2006). The nutrient use efficiencies are currently only 30%–50% of applied nitrogen (N) and around 45% of phosphorus (P) fertilizers (Raun and Johnson 1999; Tilman et al. 2002). This means that a significant amount of applied N and P is lost from agricultural fields due to surface runoff, leaching, microbial denitrification, and volatilization. Such nutrient losses harm neighboring ecosystems and diminish water quality through over-enrichment, eutrophication, hypoxia, and decline in bio-diversity (Tilman et al. 2002). Phosphorus fertilizers are produced from nonrenewable resources, and the global P reserves are being rapidly depleted. The existing rock phosphate reserves could be exhausted in the next 50–100 years (Steen 1998; Cordell et al. 2009). Furthermore, inefficiencies in nutrient use are associated with substantial economic losses. Nitrogen fertilizers, for instance, represent about one-third of the costs of cereal production (Le Gouis et al. 2000; Fageria and Baligar 2005). Improving crop/soil management practices and developing more efficient crop cultivars can make a significant contribution to meet the challenges of increasing food production while reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and reducing farmers’ costs.

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