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Soil-Plant Interaction (SPI)

Soil-Plant Interaction describes biological, physical and chemical processes that occur at the interface between soil and roots, the underground part of plants. The size of the interface is dynamic, depending on rates of growth and decay. The spatial distribution of roots in a soil profile is influenced by soil structure and heterogeneity in resource availability. However, by their activity roots they alter their environment; i.e. soil structure, soil chemistry, distribution of water, nutrients, and trace elements. Roots are an important source of organic matter and hence attract and nourish microorganisms in their immediate vicinity. Numerous positive and negative feedback loops make the soil-root interface highly dynamic in respect to chemical, physical and biological properties.


From the plant perspective as a sessile organism, this all serves to optimize the acquisition of scarce resources or to avoid toxic ones with a minimal energy investment to allow for growth and reproduction. From the ecosystem perspective these processes do not only impact net primary production and decomposition, habitat quantity and quality for microorganisms, but also transport of water and chemicals in soil. Within the working group soil-plant interaction we develop methods for investigating in situ for the rhizosphere and bulk soil the dynamics of

physical characteristics (soil strength and structure),
hydrological characteristics (availability and distribution of water), and
chemical characteristics (concentration and distribution of nutrients and toxic elements).

On lab and field scale we try to quantify how changes in these characteristics feedback on plant growth and transport of water and chemicals. We work on several questions in the context of (i) efficient use of scarce resources (water, nutrients, K), (ii) cycling of nutrients for sustainable production (Si), (ii) availability of contaminants (As). 

Rhizosphere review online