Distribution of lucerne roots in summer-dry environments of southern Australia

Zhongnan Nie, Meredith Mitchell, Steve Clark, Kevin Smith, Vivianne Burnett, Reto Zollinger, Greg Seymour - Conference Paper from Building Productive, Diverse and Sustainable Landscapes

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

This research article talks about the distribution of lucerne roots in summer-dry environments of southern Australia. Interesting to read that soil nutrient deficiency, bulk density, and environmental stress may alter the growth and distribution of lucerne taproots.

What is the problem?

In recent years, lucerne (Medicago sativa) has been widely sown in productive livestock systems to provide nutritious feed to stock under dry summer conditions in southern Australia. While it is well known that lucerne has deep roots that are important for nutrient and moisture capture, little is known about the distribution of those roots in the soil under the Mediterranean environmental conditions experienced in southern Australia. In summer 2014-15, a field study was conducted to quantify the distribution of lucerne taproot.

What did the research involve?

This field study was conducted by sampling individual lucerne plants up to 50cm and all roots in soil cores up to 2m deep in two contrasting environments, Hamilton and Rutherglen, of Victoria, Australia.

What were the key findings?

The results showed that there was a significant (P < 0.01) exponential relationship between the biomass of lucerne taproots and soil depth. It was predicted that the majority of the taproots were present in the top 10 cm of the soil and over 90% in the top 30 cm of soil. There were also significant (P < 0.01) relationships between the biomass of all roots and soil depth for Hamilton and Rutherglen, respectively.

Final Comment

It is estimated that over 70% of the total root biomass was in the top 30 cm soil at both sites.

Conference Paper from Building Productive, Diverse and Sustainable Landscapes 2015 - Australia - Zhongnan Nie, Meredith Mitchell, Steve Clark, Kevin Smith, Vivianne Burnett, Reto Zollinger, Greg Seymour - Conference Paper from Building Productive, Diverse and Sustainable Landscapes
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