Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment

M. Dannowski and A. Werner:

The importance of plant roots for ecological assessment of soil structure in laboratory and in the landscape


The rootability of soils is an important parameter in laboratory tests as well as on the scale of agricultural landscape for characterizing ecological functions of the soil. Rootability is an indicator for soil structure properties, for the effect of land management measures, especially for soil compactions, and informs about the suitability of a soil as plant site.

While the root number serves as indicator for the mechanical state of the soil and for permeability properties, the root length density provides information on the efficiency of root systems at supplying water and nutrients to the whole plant. Both parameters are in a close mathematical relation, which can vary in dependence of the thickness of the tested soil layer and the stage of plant ontogenesis. The tested plant species and varieties react to soil compactions with different intensity, some of them even have a remarkable tolerance. The underground biomass can also vary in dependence 9n soil conditions. This is important for the determination of landscape carbon balances. Rootability results of soils in an agricultural landscape element provide knowledge of the state of soil structure, the growth conditions in different soil substrates and the suitability for agricultural use.

Key words:  plant species, root length density, root number, soil compaction.