Agronomy, Vol. 12, Pages 48: Relating Profile Wall Root-Length Density Estimates to Monolith Root-Length Density Measurements of Cover Crops

Agronomy doi: 10.3390/agronomy12010048

Tábata Aline Bublitz
Roman Kemper
Phillip Müller
Timo Kautz
Thomas F. Döring
Miriam Athmann

Different methods have been proposed for in situ root-length density (RLD) measurement. One widely employed is the time-consuming sampling of soil cores or monoliths (MO). The profile wall (PW) method is a less precise, but faster and less laborious alternative. However, depth-differentiated functions to convert PW RLD estimates to MO RLD measurements have not yet been reported. In this study, we perform a regression analysis to relate PW results to MO results and determine whether calibration is possible for distinct crop groups (grasses, brassicas and legumes) consisting of pure and mixed stands, and whether soil depth affects this calibration. The methods were applied over two years to all crop groups and their absolute and cumulative RLD were compared using a linear (LR) and multiple linear (MLR) regression. PW RLD was found to highly underestimate MO RLD in absolute values and in highly rooted areas. However, a close agreement between both methods was found for cumulative root-length (RL) when applying MLR, highlighting the influence of soil depth. The level of agreement between methods varied strongly with depth. Therefore, the application of PW as the main RLD estimation method can provide reliable estimates of cumulative root distribution traits of cover crops.

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