Understanding the Roots of Soil Health

Grants and Contracts Details


Soil organic matter (SOM) is widely considered to be the foundation for healthy and productive soils. It contains large stocks of C and nutrients, holds and supplies water to plants, and confers favorable physical properties like aggregate stability. Because SOM content is positively associated with crop yield and yield stability, increasing SOM can benefit farmer income, food security, and resource use efficiency while providing ecosystem services like C sequestration. The discovery that most SOM derives from roots rather than shoots suggests that integrating crop species or varieties with large root systems may lead to rapid increases in SOM and improvements in soil health. However, soil science research is needed to determine to what extent enhanced root phenotypes affect SOM content and whether recalcitrant compounds increase or decrease SOM storage. The objectives of this research are to: 1) Determine how root depth distribution affects the formation of new SOM and the decomposition of old SOM, 2) Determine the effect of root chemical composition on the allocation of root-derived C to labile and stable SOM pools, and 3) Determine how soil type, climate, and management affect storage of SOM by roots. I propose a research program that integrate cropping system research, field incubations, and quantitative literature review to address these objectives.
Effective start/end date1/1/2212/31/24


  • Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research: $449,563.00


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