Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Plant Nutrition 32:8 (August 2009), pages 1371–1382; doi: 10.1080/01904160903007893 Copyright © 2009 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Used by permission.


Root morphology will affect interplant competition for soil nutrients. Research was conducted to assess fine root fraction, mean root radius, specific root length, root length density, and nitrogen (N) uptake per unit fine root biomass of corn and velvetleaf over time and in response to nitrogen supply. Pots containing either corn or velvetleaf were embedded in the ground and received one of three N treatments. Plants were destructively sampled on 10 dates during each of two years and root subsamples analyzed using root scanning software. While corn root morphology was more responsive to N supply than velvetleaf, velvetleaf N uptake per unit fine root length was greater than that of corn at similar biomass. Results suggest that, in lieu of modifying root morphology to increase uptake efficiency when N is deficient, velvetleaf may invest more root biomass to produce a deeper tap root to reach nutrients deeper in the profile.