Effects of air-filled soil porosity and aeration on the initiation and growth of secondary roots of maize (Zea mays)

J. Liang*, Jianhua ZHANG, Ming Hung WONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


We studied the possibility whether the initiation of secondary roots is regulated by the air-filled porosity in soil, i.e. the availability of oxygen in the soil. Maize plants were grown in long PVC tubes (1 m long and 12 cm diameter) and were unwatered for different numbers of days so that variations of soil water content with depth were achieved on the same date with plants at the same age. The plants were harvested when their root systems were established in the whole soil column and watering had been withheld for 0, 15, 20, 25 days. A decrease of soil water content was significantly correlated with an increase of air-filled porosity in soil. The number of secondary lateral roots from segments of primary adventitious roots increased dramatically when soil water content decreased from field capacity to about 0.05 g water g-1 dried soil. The total dried mass of roots at different soil depths was also positively correlated with soil air-filled porosity. It was observed that the elongation of the initiated secondary roots responded differently to the variations of soil air-filled porosity. The length of secondary roots increased initially when the soil was dried from field capacity to 0.18 g g-1 dried soil (water potential at about -0.2 MPa, air- filled porosity 0.26 cm3 cm-3), but was drastically reduced when the soil was dried further. Obviously elongation of secondary roots was inhibited when soil water potential began to deviate substantially from an optimum value. The present results suggested that the initiation of secondary roots was greatly promoted by the increase of air-filled soil porosity, i.e. availability of oxygen. This conclusion was further verified in a separate experiment where solution-cultured maize seedlings were subjected to different aeration treatments. An obvious increase in secondary root initiation was found in plants which were aerated with normal air (21% O2) than in plants which were either not aerated or aerated with 5% O2 air.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-254
Number of pages10
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1996

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • aeration
  • root growth
  • secondary root initiation
  • soil porosity
  • Zea mays


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