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Root vitality

Dixon, G. R. (2016) Root vitality. Plantsman, 15 (3). pp. 182-187. ISSN 1477-5298

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Roots provide plants with three essential services. They are the living channels through which water and nutrients are absorbed from soils or other media and then distributed into the aerial organs. By growing laterally and vertically through the soil roots provide the structural strength that supports plants which, as with mature trees (Illustration 1 black mulberry, Morus nigra, Withersdane Garden, Wye, Kent) may reach enormous sizes. A robust root system provides the capabilities for dealing with environmental stresses and strains such as those caused by high winds. Ecologically, roots are living participants in the life of soils. Soils are hives of activity inhabited by a myriad of beneficial micro- and macro-flora and -fauna for example Nature’s ploughs, the earth worm (Illustration 2). The defensive activities of roots in combating pests and pathogens, is being increasingly clarified by modern research. Hopefully, this might ultimately produce remedies which reduce the aggressive damage caused in gardens by pathogens such as the honey fungus, Armillaria spp (Illustration 3) This is highlighted for example by Benendsen et al (2012) who state “it is becoming increasingly clear that the plant (root system) is able to control the composition of its (soil) microbiome” and that “plant (roots) call for microbial help in time of need”.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Crop Science
ID Code:68511
Publisher:The Royal Horticultural Society

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