Micro-scale interactions between root hairs and soil particles control soil erosion

Sarah De Baets, Thomas D G Denbigh, Kevin M Smyth, Bethany M Eldridge, Laura Weldon, Benjamin Higgins, Antoni Matyjaszkiewicz, Jeroen Meersmans, Emily R Larson, Isaac V Chenchiah, Tanniemola B Liverpool, Timothy A Quine, Claire S Grierson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
128 Downloads (Pure)


Soil is essential for sustaining life on land. Plant roots play a crucial role in stabilising soil and minimising erosion, although these mechanisms are still not completely understood. Consequently, identifying and breeding plant traits to enhance erosion resistance is challenging. Root hair mutants in Arabidopsis thaliana were studied using three different quantitative methods to isolate their effect on root-soil cohesion. We present compelling evidence that microscale interactions of root hairs with surrounding soil increase soil cohesion and reduce erosion. Arabidopsis seedlings with root hairs were more difficult to detach from soil, compost and sterile gel media than those with hairless roots, and it was 10-times harder to erode soil from roots with than without hairs. We also developed a model that can consistently predict the impact root hairs make to soil erosion resistance. Our study thus provides new insight into the mechanisms by which roots maintain soil stability.
Original languageEnglish
Article number164 (2020)
Number of pages11
JournalCommunications Biology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Mar 2020

Structured keywords

  • Cabot Institute Environmental Change Research


  • Root Biology
  • Soil erosion
  • Root architecture
  • Root hairs


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