Sorghum root-system classification in contrasting P environments reveals three main rooting types and root-architecture-related marker-trait associations.

Parra-Londono S, Kavka M, Samans B, Snowdon R, Wieckhorst S, Uptmoor R

Published: 20 January 2018 in Annals of botany
Keywords: Root-system architecture, genome-wide association studies, phosphorus scarcity, root-system classification, sorghum
Pubmed ID: 29351588
DOI: 10.1093/aob/mcx157

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Roots facilitate acquisition of macro- and micronutrients, which are crucial for plant productivity and anchorage in the soil. Phosphorus (P) is rapidly immobilized in the soil and hardly available for plants. Adaptation to P scarcity relies on changes in root morphology towards rooting systems well suited for topsoil foraging. Root-system architecture (RSA) defines the spatial organization of the network comprising primary, lateral and stem-derived roots and is important for adaptation to stress conditions. RSA phenotyping is a challenging task and essential for understanding root development.METHODS: In this study, 19 traits describing RSA were analysed in a diversity panel comprising 194 sorghum genotypes, fingerprinted with a 90-k single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array and grown under low and high P availability.KEY RESULTS: Multivariate analysis was conducted and revealed three different RSA types: (1) a small root system; (2) a compact and bushy rooting type; and (3) an exploratory root system, which might benefit plant growth and development if water, nitrogen (N) or P availability is limited. While several genotypes displayed similar rooting types in different environments, others responded to P scarcity positively by developing more exploratory root systems, or negatively with root growth suppression. Genome-wide association studies revealed significant quantitative trait loci (P < 2.9 × 10-6) on chromosomes SBI-02, SBI-03, SBI-05 and SBI-09. Co-localization of significant and suggestive (P < 5.7 × 10-5) associations for several traits indicated hotspots controlling root-system development on chromosomes SBI-02 and SBI-03.CONCLUSIONS: Sorghum genotypes with a compact, bushy and shallow root system provide potential adaptation to P scarcity in the field by allowing thorough topsoil foraging, while genotypes with an exploratory root system may be advantageous if N or water is the limiting factor, although such genotypes showed highest P uptake levels under the artificial conditions of the present study.