Effects of no-till on root architecture and root-soil interactions in a three-year crop rotation

Andrea Fiorini*, Roberta Boselli, Stefano Amaducci, Vincenzo Tabaglio*

*Autore corrispondente per questo lavoro

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review

20 Citazioni (Scopus)


No-till (NT) has repeatedly been reported to result in several environmental advantages, including the reduction of soil erosion, sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere and increase of water retention in soils. However, experimental evidences to date show negative effects of NT on soil physical parameters (i.e., increasing penetration resistance and soil bulk density) and root development of plants, thus reducing crop yield. A three-year field study (2014–2016) was conducted to assess the effects of NT vs conventional tillage (CT) on root growth in maize, soybean, and winter wheat, on a silty clay soil in the Northern Italy. Root length density (RLD), diameter class length (DCL), root dry weight (RDW) and roots composition (C and N) in the top 60 cm of soil were measured. The total amount of root C (TRC) was calculated by multiplying RDW by root C content. Relationships among root traits, soil bulk density (BD) and penetration resistance (PR) were investigated using the non-parametric Spearman rank coefficient. RLD was significantly increased under NT compared to CT in the topsoil (0–5 cm) in maize (6.37 vs. 2.03 mg cm−3) and winter wheat (5.38 vs. 2.90 cm cm−3), while it was lower in NT than in CT in the deeper soil (5–15 cm) only in maize (3.19 vs. 4.53 cm cm−3). RDW was increased under NT compared to CT in the 0–5 cm layer in maize (3.86 vs.0.50 mg cm−3), soybean (4.33 vs. 0.43 mg cm−3), and winter wheat (0.96 vs. 0.38 mg cm−3). NT significantly reduced root C:N ratio of maize (-9%), increased C:N ratio of soybean (+14%), and did not affect C:N ratio of winter wheat. This was mainly related to the effect of NT on coarse roots, which decreased average roots N content. A negative correlation between root traits (RLD, RDW) and soil physical parameters (BD, PR) was found in this study under NT while no correlation occurred for CT. This corroborates the hypothesis that when tillage is abandoned roots are major drivers and detectors of soil physical conditions, which in turn affects roots growth again. Moreover, these results showed that BD did not always represent the main factor affecting root development and the increase of soil strength and particle density under NT did not reduce downwards root growth, which suggests that stability of continuous biopores as induced by NT in well-structured soils is probably much more relevant than the total amount of pores to affect root traits.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)156-166
Numero di pagine11
RivistaEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2018


  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Architettura radicale
  • No-tillage
  • Non lavorazione
  • Plant Science
  • Proprietà fisiche del suolo
  • RDW
  • RLD
  • RWD
  • Rapporto C:N delle radici
  • Root C:N
  • Root architectural traits
  • Soil Science
  • Soil physical properties


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