Does Elevated [CO2] Only Increase Root Growth in the Topsoil? A FACE Study with Lentil in a Semi-Arid Environment


Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations [CO2] are increasing steadily. Some reports have shown that root growth in grain crops is mostly stimulated in the topsoil rather than evenly throughout the soil profile by e[CO2], which is not optimal for crops grown in semi-arid environments with strong reliance on stored water. An experiment was conducted during the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons with two lentil (Lens culinaris) genotypes grown under Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) in which root growth was observed non-destructively with mini-rhizotrons approximately every 2–3 weeks. Root growth was not always statistically increased by e[CO2] and not consistently between depths and genotypes. In 2014, root growth in the top 15 cm of the soil profile (topsoil) was indeed increased by e[CO2], but increases at lower depths (30–45 cm) later in the season were greater than in the topsoil. In 2015, e[CO2] only increased root length in the topsoil for one genotype, potentially reflecting the lack of plant available soil water between 30–60 cm until recharged by irrigation during grain filling. Our limited data to compare responses to e[CO2] showed that root length increases in the topsoil were correlated with a lower yield response to e[CO2]. The increase in yield response was rather correlated with increases in root growth below 30 cm depth.


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lens culinaris, climate change adaptation, root development, root depth distribution


Bourgault, M.; Tausz-Posch, S.; Greenwood, M.; Löw, M.; Henty, S.; Armstrong, R.D.; O’Leary, G.L.; Fitzgerald, G.J.; Tausz, M. Does Elevated [CO2] Only Increase Root Growth in the Topsoil? A FACE Study with Lentil in a Semi-Arid Environment. Plants 2021, 10, 612. plants10040612
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