New publication: Plant Age and Soil Texture Rather Than the Presence of Root Hairs Cause Differences in Maize Resource Allocation and Root Gene Expression in the Field

Abstract: Understanding the biological roles of root hairs is key to projecting their contributions to plant growth and to assess their relevance for plant breeding. The objective of this study was to assess the importance of root hairs for maize nutrition, carbon allocation and root gene expression in a field experiment. Applying wild type and root hairless rth3 maize grown on loam and sand, we examined the period of growth including 4-leaf, 9-leaf and tassel emergence stages, accompanied with a low precipitation rate. rth3 maize had lower shoot growth and lower total amounts of mineral nutrients than wild type, but the concentrations of mineral elements, root gene expression, or carbon allocation were largely unchanged. For these parameters, growth stage accounted for the main differences, followed by substrate. Substrate-related changes were pronounced during tassel emergence, where the concentrations of several elements in leaves as well as cell wall formation-related root gene expression and C allocation decreased. In conclusion, the presence of root hairs stimulated maize shoot growth and total nutrient uptake, but other parameters were more impacted by growth stage and soil texture. Further research should relate root hair functioning to the observed losses in maize productivity and growth efficiency.