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Shaping 3D root system architecture

Morris, Emily C.; Griffiths, Marcus; Golebiowska, Agata; Mairhofer, Stefan; Burr-Hersey, Jasmine; Goh, Tatsuaki; von Wangenheim, Daniel; Atkinson, Brian; Sturrock, Craig J.; Lynch, Jonathan P.; Vissenberg, Kris; Ritz, Karl; Wells, Darren M.; Mooney, Sacha J.; Bennett, Malcolm J.


Emily C. Morris

Marcus Griffiths

Agata Golebiowska

Stefan Mairhofer

Jasmine Burr-Hersey

Tatsuaki Goh

Daniel von Wangenheim

Brian Atkinson

Jonathan P. Lynch

Kris Vissenberg

Karl Ritz

Principal Research Fellow

Professor of Soil Physics


Plants are sessile organisms rooted in one place. The soil resources that plants require are often distributed in a highly heterogeneous pattern. To aid foraging, plants have evolved roots whose growth and development are highly responsive to soil signals. As a result, 3D root architecture is shaped by myriad environmental signals to ensure resource capture is optimised and unfavourable environments are avoided. The first signals sensed by newly germinating seeds — gravity and light — direct root growth into the soil to aid seedling establishment. Heterogeneous soil resources, such as water, nitrogen and phosphate, also act as signals that shape 3D root growth to optimise uptake. Root architecture is also modified through biotic interactions that include soil fungi and neighbouring plants. This developmental plasticity results in a ‘custom-made’ 3D root system that is best adapted to forage for resources in each soil environment that a plant colonises.


Morris, E. C., Griffiths, M., Golebiowska, A., Mairhofer, S., Burr-Hersey, J., Goh, T., …Bennett, M. J. (2017). Shaping 3D root system architecture. Current Biology, 27(17), R919-R930.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 18, 2017
Online Publication Date Sep 11, 2017
Publication Date Sep 11, 2017
Deposit Date Sep 15, 2017
Journal Current Biology
Print ISSN 0960-9822
Electronic ISSN 1879-0445
Publisher Cell Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Issue 17
Article Number R919-R930
Pages R919-R930
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Shaping 3D Root System Architecture; Journal Title: Current Biology; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2017 Elsevier Ltd.
Contract Date Sep 15, 2017

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