The role of root growth and activity in determining sugarcane productivity : SRDC final report CLW002 (previously CSS02 & CSS2S)
MetadataShow full item record
Research conducted in this project aimed to better understand the relationship between root and shoot growth, in areas such as how the size of the root system affects shoot growth, do particular root parameters have a controlling influence on shoot growth, how do soil characteristics affect root penetration rates, and how the root system develops through the life of a sugarcane crop. This was achieved through the application of a wide range of experimental techniques in both the glasshouse and field situation. The study of root systems in sugarcane is difficult - due to the size of the crop and the length of the cropping period. As a result there have been few previous studies on sugarcane root systems in Australia, and indeed around the world. A number of techniques were either developed, or adapted, in this project research. A soilless aeroponic culture technique was installed and refined at Tully Sugar Experiment Station. This allowed sugarcane roots to be examined on a daily basis and root measurements made, or root pruning to occur. This overcame the difficulty of dealing with the bulky, opaque soil medium. A tall pot system was adapted for sugarcane where sugarcane could be grown for an extended period in controlled conditions. This enabled plant water relations to be studied in association with modification to root growing conditions. Root image analysis techniques were further refined for sugarcane, allowing measurement of both whole glasshouse-grown root systems, or the quantification of root lengths in material from soil cores obtained in the field. A technique for growing sugarcane with a split root system was also adapted enabling the direct and indirect effects of water stress and root pruning in a soil culture to be examined, and the likely presence of root signals as a mechanism for control of shoot growth. Studies using these techniques facilitated an examination of the relationship between roots and shoots under various experimental conditions - ranging from controlled conditions with no soil in the glasshouse, through other soil-based glasshouse trials, to the field situation. This gave depth to project results and a broader understanding of root-shoot relationships using a range of experimental observations.