Although white clover (Trifolium repens) is a major temperate legume, its production is limited by low soil moisture. Using 1m deep sand culture, Nichols et al. examined the effect of hybridisation with the wild relative T. uniflorum on rooting depth and root depth distribution.
They found that hybridisation affected various root characteristics, most likely reflecting edaphic adaptations from the T. uniflorum parent. Roots of the hybrids penetrated deeper than white clover, but distribution of root mass was similar to T. uniflorum. The changes in root traits and architecture which result from these targeted breeding strategies may improve access to water, but also to soil phosphorus. Consequently these results could have wide-reaching implications for improved pasture production.
This paper is part of the Root Biology Special Issue.
S. N. Nichols, R. W. Hofmann, W. M. Williams, C. van Koten, 2016, 'Rooting depth and root depth distribution of Trifolium repens × T. uniflorum interspecific hybrids', Annals of Botany, vol. 118, no. 4, pp. 699-710 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcw067