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Root architecture and hydraulics converge for acclimation to changing water availability

Abstract

Because of intense transpiration and growth, the needs of plants for water can be immense. Yet water in the soil is most often heterogeneous if not scarce due to more and more frequent and intense drought episodes. The converse context, flooding, is often associated with marked oxygen deficiency and can also challenge the plant water status. Under our feet, roots achieve an incredible challenge to meet the water demand of the plant’s aerial parts under such dramatically different environmental conditions. For this, they continuously explore the soil, building a highly complex, branched architecture. On shorter time scales, roots keep adjusting their water transport capacity (their so-called hydraulics) locally or globally. While the mechanisms that directly underlie root growth and development as well as tissue hydraulics are being uncovered, the signalling mechanisms that govern their local and systemic adjustments as a function of water availability remain largely unknown. A comprehensive understanding of root architecture and hydraulics as a whole (in other terms, root hydraulic architecture) is needed to apprehend the strategies used by plants to optimize water uptake and possibly improve crops regarding this crucial trait.

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Fig. 1: The water uptake capacity of a root system is determined by both its architecture and hydraulics.
Fig. 2: Quantitative genetics allowed the identification of novel genes involved in the regulation of root hydraulics under composite stress conditions.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported in part by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-11-BSV6-018) and the European Research Council (ERC-2017-ADG-788553).

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C.M. wrote this article, which was discussed with and corrected by P.N.

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Correspondence to Christophe Maurel.

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Maurel, C., Nacry, P. Root architecture and hydraulics converge for acclimation to changing water availability. Nat. Plants 6, 744–749 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-020-0684-5

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