Getting to the roots, an underground story

Discussion in 'The Village Square' started by Jerry Sullivan, Dec 1, 2013.

  1. Jerry Sullivan

    Jerry Sullivan Garden Experimenter Plants Contributor

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    For most of us life in the garden begins with a green sprout as it pokes its head above the soil. We watch and nurture the plant as it grows. We eagerly await flowers, fruit or veggies. But there is another world just as important that we rarely see. Welcome to the subterranean world of roots. The roots of the plant perform four essential functions: they supply nutrients, aid in plant support, provide food storage and aid in vegetative reproduction. A root isn't just a root, it's a whole system with even more hidden functions. They interact with the soil around them. So as our world fades from view, the microscopic world of roots grows larger and we find………

    The Rhizosphere supervisor could feel the heat of the sun as she finished breakfast. The morning chill was fading as she looked at her daily schedule. Oh great, she thought, my morning is going to be tied up with a Mycorrhizae presentation by a group of local fungi. She thought about how she was going to get the meeting conference room. The tap root was congested for this time of morning but the plant had just been transplanted and the increased activity reflected the need for more water and minerals. She decided to use the Phloem and waited at the local station until there was an opening in the passageway, it was crowded route but the flow was the right direction. She glanced over at the busy Xylem, workers were transporting Cytokinins up from the root to higher locations in the plant. Later, at lunchtime she would take the Xylem to the cafeteria. She step off the Phloem and entered one of the many lateral roots, the conference room was about half way to the end. Several other Rhizosphere supervisors were there. She poured a beverage, and then sat down. Several of the fungi were passing out literature. The lights dimmed and the first page of the presentation filled the screen. Lunch was going to be a long way away……

    The rhizosphere is the area immediately surrounding the plant root that is effected by root secretions. I suppose seeing is better. To give you an idea as to how narrow the zone is, try gently shake plant roots in water, the area of the rhizosphere is what remains on the roots. The complex interactions in the zone are numerous and important. Fungi, bacteria, protozoa and nematodes inhabit the zone to name a few. You may not look at plant roots the same way again.

    Without getting overly complicated Mycorrhize is a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a plant. Both partners benefit by exchanging what each needs. The plant has better access to nutrients in the soil which it needs for growth and the fungus receives carbon from the plant made during the photosynthesis process.

    Cytokinins are substances used in the process of cell growth called cytokinesis and have to do with plant cell division and differentiation. Needless to say the process of cell division swims in a sea of terms perhaps a story for another day.

    Both Xylem and Phloem are transport systems. Like the veins and arteries in your body these plant systems are the highways for water and nutrients. The Xylem moves water and minerals from the root to provide for plant growth. The Phloem translocates food and nutrients from leaves to growing parts of the plant and to the roots where they is stored.

    The terms can get confusing especially when you find them in a plant explanation. I hope this helps with some terms and maybe presents some new ones.

    Jerry
     
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  3. Philip Nulty

    Philip Nulty Strong Ash

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    Wow Jerry very interesting information,..as you mentioned i will never look at plant roots in the same way again.
     
  4. eileen

    eileen Resident Taxonomist Staff Member Moderator Plants Contributor

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    I'm going to copy this and send it to my daughter as It will help her with her gardening course. Thanks Jerry. :-D
     
  5. Sjoerd

    Sjoerd Mighty Oak

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    What an excellent posting, Jerry. I enjoyed your method of presenting the info with a measure of humour and in story form. I appreciate what you are doing here. It brings information to the readers that is quite serious and of utmost importance.

    Personally I believe that if gardeners take the time and effort to learn about soil structure and its layers, along with the symbiotic working with roots then they can become even better gardeners than they already are.

    There are many micro-biotic layers in the soil, all with their own function. it is indeed a very fascinating world. There are "composting" microbes, symbiotic layers, even micro-fungal types that catch and eat nematodes in the most unbelievable of manners. Check this vid out:

    http://youtu.be/0n04wCkIpuQ

    These layers naturally belong in soil and are of course helpful to the quality and furthering of soil quality as well as to the gardener (secondarily). I mean, these layers do not exist FOR the gardener, but if the gardener is aware of the layers and understand how they work he cam help them and support their existence. he/she ought not destroy them and then; of course, reap the benefits of their presence.

    The layers consist of fungi, bacteria protozoa and so forth. It really is a sort of miracle how they exist and work. Interesting reading for a cold and unfriendly winters' day.

    There is a group of gardeners who garden in a "natural" way and their method of gardening is called "Permaculture". I know of these people and in fact some of the techniques that use are shared by them.

    Here in nederland, one can take a short course and become what they call, a "Humist". A Humist is someone who understands humus and with that knowledge tries to protect his own and even add to it. Well, it is true that the humus, or superficial layer of soil is quite rich and so very good for plants.

    I met one of these chaps a while ago and listened to his lecture. I found his method of speaking and explaining effective...in the sence that he could explain the "soil situation" very well, so that the least scientific of gardener could understand.

    We are speaking about him coming and giving a lecture to our gardening society's members in the coming months.

    Well I got waaaaaay off track, didn't I. Pardon. It was just my long-winded way of commenting in support of this thread.

    At any rate this posting, Jerry--was an excellent one and while it targeted only the zone around roots, that is the zone of most interest to us all as gardeners. The Rhizosphere.

    Well done, mate.
     
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  6. Donna S

    Donna S Hardy Maple

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    Thank Jerry and Sjoerd. Very informative.
     
  7. Sjoerd

    Sjoerd Mighty Oak

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    Thanks for your comments Donna.

    I found this thread of Jerry's, so very, very important for us gardeners. I am glad that you found it helpful too.
     

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