This project has focussed on root growth and water uptake from the soil to find ways to mitigate yield losses as a result of drought. Our aim was to identify limitation to water uptake. We started small in a glasshouse setting to assess root growth under varying watering regimes. After this we scaled up to large boxes in a polytunnel as well as field experiments. Our main questions were:
- Do sugar beet grow deep roots?
- Do they take up water with those deep roots?
- Are there any root physiological restraints?
- How does drought affect root growth?
- Does the timing of the drought change the plant response?
- Are there any varietal differences in root growth?
Outcomes / Key Message For Growers And Industry
Overall, we found that sugar beet are capable of growing deep roots and water uptake from depth happens. However, there are some limitations to water uptake from depth such as immature root tissue and compaction resulting in root clumping. When drought occurs plants proliferate their roots more at depth. It also seems that plants recover more quickly from early drought than late drought. Our field experiments showed that there are varietal differences. This has also been noticed by one of the sugar beet breeders who have showed interest in the root research and the findings about the immature root tissue. They are funding a follow up project to look at the maturity of the root tissue and its effect on water uptake. All in all the project has given us a better insight into water uptake in sugar beet and it has given us more opportunities to look for improvement in the future.