Fractal geometry of root systems: Field observations of contrasting genotypes of common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) grown under different phosphorus regimes

Kai L. Nielsen, Carter R. Miller, Douglas Beck, Jonathan P. Lynch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


Root growth and architecture are important for phosphorus acquisition due to the relative immobility of P in the soil. Fractal geometry is a potential new approach to the analysis of root architecture. Substantial genetic variation in root growth and architecture has been observed in common bean. Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) genotypes with contrasting root architecture were grown under moderate and low P conditions in a field experiment. Linear and planar fractal dimension were measured by tracing root intercepts with vertical planes. Linear fractal dimension increased over time in efficient genotypes, but remained fairly constant over time in inefficient genotypes. Planar fractal dimension increased over time for all genotypes, but was higher in efficient than inefficient genotypes at the end of the experiment. Planar fractal dimension of medium P plants was found to correlate with shoot P content indicating fractal dimension to be a possible indicator for root P uptake. The increasing fractal dimension over time indicates that fractal analysis is a sensitive measure of root branching intensity. A less destructive method for acquisition of data that allows for continuous analysis of fractal geometry and thereby screening for more P efficient genotypes in the field is suggested. This method will allow the researcher to conduct fractal analysis and still complete field trials with final yield evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-190
Number of pages10
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1999


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science

Cite this