The effect of steepness of temporal resource gradients on spatial root allocation

Hagai Shemesh, Ran Rosen, Gil Eshel, Ariel Novoplansky, Ofer Ovadia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Plants are able to discriminately allocate greater biomass to organs that grow under higher resource levels. Recent evidence demonstrates that split-root plants also discriminately allocate more resources to roots that grow under dynamically improving nutrient levels, even when their other roots grow in richer patches. Here, we further tested whether, besides their responsiveness to the direction of resource gradients, plants are also sensitive to the steepness of environmental trajectories. Split-root Pisum sativum plants were grown so that one of their roots developed under constantly-high nutrient levels and the other root was subjected to dynamically improving nutrient levels of variable steepness. As expected, plants usually allocated a greater proportion of their biomass to roots that developed under constantly high resource availability; however, when given a choice, they allocated greater biomass to roots that initially experienced relatively low but steeply improving nutrient availabilities than to roots that developed under continuouslyhigh nutrient availability. Such discrimination was not observed when the roots in the poor patch experienced only gentler improvements in nutrient availability. The results are compatible with the notion that responsiveness to the direction and steepness of environmental gradients could assist annual plants to increase their performance by anticipating resource availabilities foreseeable before the end of the growing season. The results exemplify the ability of plants to integrate and utilize environmental information and execute adaptive behaviors which, until recently, were attributed only to animals with central nervous systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1356-1360
Number of pages5
JournalPlant Signaling and Behavior
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • Anticipatory responses
  • Environmental information
  • Foraging
  • Gradient perception
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Plant behavior
  • Rate of change
  • Resource gradients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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