Root stress: how to avoid it and improve root health


Root stress: how to avoid it and improve root health

Root stress can be one of the reasons why crops do not perform as efficiently as possible. It is an all too common problem due to different factors and causes, which we will explain below, and it is also almost invisible because it occurs underground and it is more difficult to anticipate. In this post, we will tell you what it is, its causes, its types and how to avoid it.

What is root stress

Root stress is the set of effects that cause discomfort in the roots of plants and lead to a slowing of growth and weakness in the appearance of possible diseases. Sometimes it is even caused by common crop maintenance tasks, such as irrigation since an imperceptible excess of water can do great damage to them.

Factors and causes of root stress

  • Soil conditions: Agricultural activity greatly affects the soil, sometimes causing a poor state of compaction that affects the roots causing stress. In this case, density and resistance increase, causing the roots to have restricted space for movement and growth. Thus, they obtain less oxygen and water, among other consequences that generate a lower quantity and quality of the crop.
  • Thermal shock: temperature is one of the most important factors for the roots during their development, whether in germination or in the production of fruit. Each crop needs a minimum and a maximum temperature to optimize its development, so exceeding the margins is a problem for growth. And this is difficult for growers to control outside greenhouses.
  • Mechanical damage: when a plant suffers a problem of these characteristics in its roots, it invariably decreases quality and production. And mechanical damage is easier and more common than it seems, as it can be caused simply by using unsuitable equipment and tools, or by poorly trained personnel. It can also be caused by insects or pests, or by placing crops too close together so that the roots of two or more plants coexist in the same space and have to overlap each other, causing mechanical damage that is difficult to solve.
  • Pathogens: Soil is home to millions of microscopic organisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Their presence in the soil can be very harmful to roots and, therefore, to crops. But, in addition, toxicity in the soil after the use of chemical treatments must be taken into account, as residues or active ingredients can sometimes damage the roots.

Root stress: types

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  • Environmental stress: environmental stress is caused by all factors in the plant’s environment that can negatively affect growth. This includes factors such as drought, temperature and light intensity.
  • Mechanical stress: plants are extremely sensitive, so everything that happens around them can affect them. In fact, they even feel when someone walks around them. A bending of a stem or improper handling can have dire consequences.
  • Drought stress: Plants suffer under drought conditions. This is due to the loss of water from the soil, which evaporates in greater quantities than the moisture in the soil. Although some plants have developed the ability to store water for times of drought, sometimes the drought is so long in duration that they consume their reserves. In these cases, growth is affected by the lack of moisture and water, not only of the plant, but also of the roots themselves, which use more energy to grow and therefore limit their capacity to produce.
  • Root stress or asphyxia due to excess water: on the other hand, excess water can also be a cause of premature death for plants. Waterlogged soil prevents them from obtaining oxygen, so the roots have to breathe anaerobically, generating toxic compounds that yellow the leaves and rot the plant.
  • Salinity stress: when there is an excess of salts in the soil, plants suffer because salinity reduces the amount of moisture around the roots. In addition, a high concentration of salts can have toxic effects on plants.
  • Heat stress: high temperatures in themselves are not negative, but the effects are: increased water evaporation, in quantity and speed the hotter it is. This automatically generates drought processes for the roots. In extreme situations, moreover, crops can suffer burns.
  • Cold stress: frost, on the other hand, paralyzes crop growth by causing injuries.
  • Chemical stress: the application of chemicals during root and fruit development can cause physical damage if not used in the right proportions and quantities. Misuse of herbicides and their spraying can also cause unintentional damage to surrounding plants.


How to avoid root stress

Since many of the factors that cause root stress are in the lack of control of farmers and agricultural companies in the environment, from climate to soil degradation, the ideal to avoid it is to make use of protected environments such as greenhouses.

In addition, to generate a favourable root environment and control what happens around the roots, allowing their maximum potential and development, there are substrate cultivation systems that reproduce optimal conditions for them. This has a direct consequence: more health, more strength, more fruit quantity and higher quality.

Substrate and hydroponic growing systems such as those we design and manufacture at Hydroponic Systems make it possible to develop this potential while limiting root stress to a minimum because in the greenhouse they maintain the right climate and environment, and also, thanks to these growing units, the roots avoid the problems usually encountered in traditional soil agriculture.

This has been proven by numerous customers around the world, and even by independent studies such as this one by Ceickor University Center, which shows that plants that used Hydroponic Systems had a 3% to 5% higher development. Or this Japanese farmer who in his first experience growing strawberries with our units got a ton more than his usual yield.

Do you also want to try Hydroponic Systems to avoid root stress and maximize production? Contact us: