Vertical gradient in soil temperature stimulates development and increases biomass accumulation in barley

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We have detailed knowledge from controlled environment studies on the influence of root temperature on plant performance, growth and morphology. However, in all studies root temperature was kept spatially uniform, which motivated us to test whether a vertical gradient in soil temperature affected development and biomass production. Roots of barley seedlings were exposed to three uniform temperature treatments (10, 15 or 20°C) or to a vertical gradient (20-10°C from top to bottom). Substantial differences in plant performance, biomass production and root architecture occurred in the 30-day-old plants. Shoot and root biomass of plants exposed to vertical temperature gradient increased by 144 respectively, 297%, compared with plants grown at uniform root temperature of 20°C. Additionally the root system was concentrated in the upper 10cm of the soil substrate (98% of total root biomass) in contrast to plants grown at uniform soil temperature of 20°C (86% of total root biomass). N and C concentrations in plant roots grown in the gradient were significantly lower than under uniform growth conditions. These results are important for the transferability of 'normal' greenhouse experiments where generally soil temperature is not controlled or monitored and open a new path to better understand and experimentally assess root-shoot interactions. In nearly all experiments with living plants the temperature of root system and shoot are identically or spatially uniform. But this is not the case outside under field conditions, where temperature in the soil is heterogeneous. Under controlled conditions we found that this abiotic parameter has a strong effect on root distribution and dynamic of biomass production of barley.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)884-892
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 05.2012
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Biology
  • Ecosystems Research - Hordeum Vulgare, C and N distribution, root diameter, root growth, root length, shoot development, soil temperature gradient, uniform soil temperature