The growth-driven penetration strategy of plant roots is mechanically more efficient than pushing


Plant roots are considered highly efficient soil explorers. As opposed to the push-driven penetration strategy commonly used by many digging organisms, roots penetrate by growing, adding new cells at the tip, and elongating over a well-defined growth zone. However, a comprehensive understanding of the mechanical aspects associated with root penetration is currently lacking. We perform penetration experiments following Arabidopsis thaliana roots growing into an agar gel environment, and a needle of similar dimensions pushed into the same agar. We measure and compare the environmental deformations in both cases by following the displacement of fluorescent beads embedded within the gel, combining confocal microscopy and Digital Volume Correlation (DVC) analysis. We find that deformations are generally smaller for the growing roots. To better understand the mechanical differences between the two penetration strategies we develop a computational model informed by experiments. Simulations show that, compared to push-driven penetration, grow-driven penetration reduces frictional forces and mechanical work, with lower propagation of displacements in the surrounding medium. These findings shed light on the complex interaction of plant roots with their environment, providing a quantitative understanding based on a comparative approach

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Ayelet Lesman Lab

Yasmine Meroz