High‐resolution synchrotron imaging shows that root hairs influence rhizosphere soil structure formation

N. Koebernik, K. R. Daly, S. D. Keyes, T. S. George, L .K. Brown, Annette Raffan, L. J. Cooper, M. Naveed, A. G. Bengough, I. Sinclair, P. D. Hallett, T. Roose

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In this paper, we provide the first direct evidence of the importance of root hairs on pore structure development at the root-soil interface during the early stage of crop establishment. This was achieved by use of high resolution (~5 µm) synchrotron radiation computed tomography (SRCT) to visualise both the structure of root hairs and the soil pore structure in plant-soil microcosms. Two contrasting genotypes of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), with and without root hairs, were grown for 8 days in microcosms packedwith sandy loam soil at 1.2 g cm-3 35 dry bulk density. Root hairs were visualised within air filled pore spaces, but not in the fine-textured soil regions.  We found that the genotype with root hairs significantly altered the porosity and connectivity of the detectable pore space (> 5 µm) in the rhizosphere, as compared with the no-hair mutants. Both genotypes showed decreasing pore-space between 0.8 mm and 0.1 mm from the root surface. Interestingly the root-hair-bearing genotype had a significantly greater soil pore volume-fraction at the root-soil interface. Effects of pore structure on diffusion and permeability were estimated to be functionally insignificant under saturated conditions when simulated using image based modelling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-135
Number of pages11
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • image-based modelling
  • non-invasive imaging
  • rhizosphere
  • root hairs
  • soil structure
  • synchroton


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