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Soil, plants and food

Themes: Plant rooting | Plant water supply | Plant nutrients | Quiz

Imagine being in a forest of large oak trees. Have you ever wondered how those trees manage to stand up year after year? Well the answer lies in the soil! One of the important roles of soil is to provide an anchorage for the trees and other vegetation that grow above ground. In the case of a large tree this is a big responsibility. The nature of the soil, including its texture, structure, water and nutrient supply and depth, influence greatly what will grow in a particular soil.

Soil forms a strong foundation for plant roots. One of the most important things for a plant when it is beginning its life is to find anchorage. Some plants send a deep taproot down into the soil, sometimes several metres deep, with the idea that great depth will give it good anchorage. Other plants have much more fibrous plant system, with lots and lots of lateral roots and root hairs. Although these fibrous rooting systems are shallower than the taproots, the fact that the roots and root hairs occupy a lot of the soil, and are able to cling to grains and aggregates of soil, can lead to them being well anchored.

One of the major roles of plant roots is to anchor the plant firmly in the soil, and prevent it being blown over. They do not always achieve this and some of the bigger trees, for example, can be unstable in periods of bad weather. Some trees, such as beech which tends to like the shallow soils on chalk rock, are relatively shallow rooting and can become unstable, leading to windblow. Other species of tree, such as the oak, put down much deeper roots and are more stable.

Themes: Plant rooting | Plant water supply | Plant nutrients | Quiz