Do newer maize hybrids grow roots faster and deeper?

Cintia Sciarresi, August Thies, Christopher Topp, Douglas Eudy, Slobodan Trifunovic, Alejo Ruiz, Philip M. Dixon, Fernando Miguez, Lee C. Burras, Sotirios V. Archontoulis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding historical changes in root depth attributes is needed for crop productivity and sustainability assessments, but such information is rare. We explored whether newer maize (Zea mays L.) hybrids grow roots faster and deeper than older hybrids and quantified the role of management and environment on root trait expression. We measured root front velocity (RFV) and maximum root depth in 11 Bayer Crop Science legacy hybrids released from 1983 to 2017 across five environments in the US Corn Belt during 2021 and 2022. Root depth was measured weekly during vegetative stages with manual probes and the maximum root depth at crop harvest with a Giddings probe. Results indicated that the RFV and maximum root depth slightly increased with the year of hybrid release (0.13% per year, p = 0.1) at 8.7 plants m−2. Historical increases in plant density from 4.7 to 8.7 plants m−2 lowered RFV and maximum root depth, but the new hybrids compensated for this loss, resulting in 4% higher RFV and 3% higher maximum depth when comparing systems from 1983 to 2017. The environment strongly influenced root trait expression (>41%). Rain anomaly and soil bulk density explained a portion of this variation. We found a linear relationship between root depth and leaf number (R2 = 0.95) and a nonlinear relationship between RFV and maximum root depth (R2 = 0.77), which can stimulate crop model improvements. Faster and deeper roots were not correlated with maize yields in our environments. This study enhances our understanding of maize breeding impacts on root traits.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCrop Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'Do newer maize hybrids grow roots faster and deeper?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this