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Modeling soil-root water transport and competition for single and mixed crops

F. Lafolie, L. Bruckler, H. Ozier-Lafontaine, R. Tournebize and A. Mollier
Plant and Soil
Vol. 210, No. 1 (1999), pp. 127-143
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42949614
Page Count: 17
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Modeling soil-root water transport and competition for single and mixed crops
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Abstract

knowledge of above and below ground plant interactions for water is essential to understand the performance of intercropped systems. In this work, root water potential dynamics and water uptake partitioning were compared between single crops and intercrops, using a simulation model. Four root maps having 498, 364, 431 and 431 soil-root contacts were used. In the first and second cases, single crops with 'deep' and 'Surface' roots were considered, whereas in the third and fourth cases, roots of two mixed crops were simultaneously considered with different row spacing (40 cm and 60 cm). Two soils corresponding to a clay and a silty clay loam were used in the calculations. A total maximum evapotranspiration of 6 mm d⁻¹ for both single or mixed crops was considered, for the mixed crops however, two transpiration distributions between the crops were analyzed (3: 3 mm d⁻¹, or 4: 2 mm d⁻¹ for each crop, respectively). The model was based on a previous theoretical framework applied to single or intercropped plants having spatially distributed roots in a two-dimensional domain. Although water stress occurred more rapidly in the loam than in the clay, due to the rapid decrease of the soil water reserve in the loam, the role of the root arrangement appeared to be crucial for water availability. Interactions between the distribution of transpiration among mixed crops and the architecture of the root systems which were in competition led to water movements from zones with one plant to another, or vice versa, which corresponded to specific competition or facilitation effects. Decreasing the distances between roots may increase competition for water, although it may determine greater water potential gradients in the soil that increase lateral or vertical water fluxes in the soil profile. The effects of the root competition on water uptake were quite complicated, depending on both environmental conditions, soil hydrodynamic properties, and time scales. Although some biological adaptive mechanisms were disregarded in the analysis, the physically 2-D based model may be considered as a tool to study the exploitation of environmental heterogeneity at microsite scales.

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