Root plasticity in the pursuit of water

Hillel Fromm*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


One of the greatest challenges of terrestrial vegetation is to acquire water through soil-grown roots. Owing to the scarcity of high-quality water in the soil and the environment’s spatial heterogeneity and temporal variability, ranging from extreme flooding to drought, roots have evolutionarily acquired tremendous plasticity regarding their geometric arrangement of individual roots and their three-dimensional organization within the soil. Water deficiency has also become an increasing threat to agriculture and dryland ecosystems due to climate change. As a result, roots have become important targets for genetic selection and modification in an effort to improve crop resilience under water-limiting conditions. This review addresses root plasticity from different angles: Their structures and geometry in response to the environment, potential genetic control of root traits suitable for water-limiting conditions, and contemporary and future studies of the principles underlying root plasticity post-Darwin’s ‘root-brain’ hypothesis. Our increasing knowledge of different disciplines of plant sciences and agriculture should contribute to a sustainable management of natural and agricultural ecosystems for the future of mankind.

Original languageEnglish
Article number236
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


FundersFunder number
US-Israel Binational Science Foundation2017130
Israel Science Foundation757/12


    • Drought
    • Hydraulic lift
    • Hydropatterning
    • Hydrotropism
    • Phenotypic plasticity
    • Rhizosphere
    • Root system architecture
    • Xerobranching
    • Xerotropism


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