Trends in Plant Science - Review: Digging Deeper for Agricultural Resources, the Value of Deep Rooting

A review prepared by a group of researchers from the Deep Frontier project in collaboration with researchers from Australia, France and the USA was published in the April 2020 issue of ‘Trends in Plant Science’. In the review they explore the potential of sustainable intensification through extending the root depth of crops to increase the volume of soil exploited by their root system.

In the review they try to answer the questions:

·         Is there a biological potential for deep rooting?

·         Do crops with deeper roots acquire resources in deep spoil layers?

·         Can deep rooting of agricultural crops be improved?

·         Can deep roots contribute to agricultural productivity?

·         What’s the interactions between deep soil biota and roots?

·         Will deep rooting improve soil quality and carbon storage?


They conclude that existing research shows that the biological potential for extending the crop root zone deeper into the soil is substantial. However, the important question is, how much this will contribute to uptake of water and nutrients, reduce leaching loss, and promote deep soil carbon sequestration across larger agricultural regions. The inherent potentials and limitations of different crop plants need to be combined with broader studies of the potential and constraints of deep soils for root growth and functions.


To be able to understand and exploit the potential of deep rooting as a tool towards sustainable intensification research must be directed at quantification and upscaling of effects. Outstanding questions of high priority have been identified and are listed in the paper.


Read the paper here (open access).


Digging Deeper for Agricultural Resources, the Value of Deep Rooting, 

Trends in Plant ScienceApril 2020, Vol. 25, No. 4

Kristian Thorup-Kristensen, Niels Halberg, Mette Nicolaisen, Jørgen Eivind Olesen, Timothy E. Crews, Philippe Hinsinger, John Kirkegaard, Alain Pierret, and Dorte Bodin Dresbøll