Effect of soil potassium availability on soybean root and shoot growth under unrestrained rooting conditions

F. J. Coale, J. H. Grove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The development of soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) root systems was investigated in two greenhouse pot experiments utilizing a modified cage technique. One soil at two levels of K availability was used to observe the effect of soil K fertility level on root weight and root length in 3 cm depth increments to 24 cm. Experiments were terminated prior to restraint of root growth by the containers. Shoot mineral accumulation and dry matter partitioning between root and shoot components were investigated. High K plants were shorter and had a greater root:shoot mass ratio than low K plants. A trend for greater root dry matter production in soil layers below 12 cm under high K conditions was observed. There were no differences in root length between the treatments at any depth. Tissue K content was greater in the high K treatments and this increase was equivalently offset by decreased tissue Mg concentrations. The taller low K plants had a greater leaf area and a lower specific leaf weight, resulting in part from decreased starch content. Daily evapotranspirational water losses per pot tended to be greater under the low K availability regime. This information led to the speculation that under low K conditions, the soybean plant may increase K accumulation by promoting transpirational water use, aiding soil K acquisition by mass flow and diffusion. Tissue carbohydrate analyses suggest greater translocation of photosynthate out of the leaf in the low K plants for use in root absorption metabolism, rather than for production of increased root dry matter and/or increased root length.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1565-1584
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Plant Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 1986


  • Glycine max (L.) Merrill
  • K accumulation
  • carbohydrate translocation
  • root absorption power (a)
  • rooting patterns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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