GET A GOOD LOOK. No-tillers should be checking their roots throughout the season to see how well theyâ??re performing. Roots should generally be white, proliferating in all directions and have minimal deformities, like this sunflowerâ??s roots. Joel Gruver says he was able to expose these roots with a Shop-Vac and a hose.

Environment, Genetics Play Key Roles In Maximizing Root Growth

No-tillers looking to develop a healthier, stronger root system will want to focus on how to create optimal soil environments that interact well with good genetics.

No-tillers may keep an eye on what’s going on aboveground throughout the growing season, but what’s taking place belowground can also have a big impact on crop health and yield.

Aside from the physical support and uptake of water and nutrients, roots are responsible for a number of critical processes, including storing nutrients and energy, changing soil pH, filtering out toxins and poisoning competitors. Most of the hormones that function aboveground are produced in the root system, and more than 75% of soil organic matter comes from roots, Joel Gruver says.

At the 2014 National No-Tillage Conference, the Western Illinois University soils specialist shared the critical role roots play in crop production and some of the keys to optimizing their performance.

Environmental Impact

While agriculture has done a good job of managing acute root diseases, the same can’t be said for what Gruver calls chronic root malfunction.

“That’s where the root system is underperforming and when we see the symptoms aboveground, we say we need more nutrients or more irrigation,” he says. “We forget about the fact that we have the capacity in most situations to have better utilization of soil resources, if we could grow a bigger and healthier root system.”

Gruver explains that today’s “silver-bullet” technologies, such as seed treatments, rootworm-resistant genetics and tiling, can partially compensate for a poor foundation, but growers should also focus on enhancing soil and root health, so that full crop performance is possible. The key, he says, is to have optimal soil…

To view the content, please subscribe or login.
 Premium content is for our Digital-only and Premium subscribers. A Print-only subscription doesn't qualify. Please purchase/upgrade a subscription with the Digital product to get access to all No-Till Farmer content and archives online. Learn more about the different versions and what is included.

Laura allen

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

Top Articles

Current Issue


No-Till Farmer

Get full access NOW to the most comprehensive, powerful and easy-to-use online resource for no-tillage practices. Just one good idea will pay for your subscription hundreds of times over.

Subscribe Now

View More

Must Read Free Eguides

Download these helpful knowledge building tools

View More
Top Directory Listings