Environmental Control of Root System Biology

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2016 Apr 29;67:619-42. doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-043015-111848. Epub 2016 Feb 22.


The plant root system traverses one of the most complex environments on earth. Understanding how roots support plant life on land requires knowing how soil properties affect the availability of nutrients and water and how roots manipulate the soil environment to optimize acquisition of these resources. Imaging of roots in soil allows the integrated analysis and modeling of environmental interactions occurring at micro- to macroscales. Advances in phenotyping of root systems is driving innovation in cross-platform-compatible methods for data analysis. Root systems acclimate to the environment through architectural changes that act at the root-type level as well as through tissue-specific changes that affect the metabolic needs of the root and the efficiency of nutrient uptake. A molecular understanding of the signaling mechanisms that guide local and systemic signaling is providing insight into the regulatory logic of environmental responses and has identified points where crosstalk between pathways occurs.

Keywords: root modeling; root system architecture; root-environment interactions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization*
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Plant Roots* / growth & development
  • Plant Roots* / metabolism
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Soil*
  • Water / metabolism


  • Soil
  • Water
  • Phosphorus
  • Nitrogen