The Book Stall
Plant Roots

Plant Roots
Growth, Function and Interactions with the Soil 
by Peter Gregory
Blackwell Science Inc., 2006

The study and understanding of plant roots and their interactions with the soils around them has been somewhat neglected by botanists compared to the research on the leaves and fruit of plants. Roots in soil are difficult to observe and until, recently, their processes have been difficult to measure. Many of the studies of roots extant in plant literature are based on seedlings in solution rather than soil, and extrapolating their findings to older plants begs questions about the impact of changing root anatomy, chemical composition, and the fungi and bacteria in the soil.

This book corrects the imbalance with a comprehensive survey of current knowledge on the root systems of vascular plants and their interactions with soils. The author, Professor Peter Gregory, shares his expertise on the development and growth of root systems and his understanding of how roots are both affected by interactions with their biological environment and how they, as well, modify their environment.

Gregory also discusses recent developments in imaging, molecular biology, analytical chemistry and genetic controls that are changing the base of knowledge regarding roots. His text covers and assists many fields of agricultural science and should be an especially useful reference for environmental scientists, ecologists and plant physiologists.

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Plant Roots
Plant Roots
Growth, Function and Interactions with the Soil


The phenomenon of allelopathy refers to the chemical interactions that occur among plants mediated by the release of chemicals into the soil.

Some plants are well known for reducing the growth of neighboring competitors and chemicals released from roots have been identified in several species...

Among crops, sorghum has long been known to suppress the growth of some weeds and, depending on conditions, succeeding crops such as maize...

Several varieties of rice have also been found to inhibit the growth of other plants...
Among trees, the presence of black walnut in landscapes has long been known to be detrimental to a wide range of vegetable and crop species including tomato, pea, beans, maize, wheat and barley...

Besides their role in agriculture, allelochemicals released from roots may also play a role in the establishment of some invasive species. For example, the ability of diffuse knapweed and spotted knapweed to invade grasslands in the western United States compared to grasslands in Eurasia where they are native, appears to be due to the adverse affects of their root exudates on native North American species...

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