Roots are essential for providing water, nutrients, and structural integrity to trees. Many typical gardening methods do not take into account the importance of healthy tree roots because these necessary anchors are mostly underground. Knowing how roots function and grow, and the different types of roots that exist will greatly improve the life, quality, and quantity of your crop. Here are the basics you should know about tree roots:
How Roots Function
Knowing how roots function will better prepare you for properly taking care of your trees and avoid common gardening mistakes. Roots do the following:
• Absorb water and nutrients
• Store nutrients
• Anchor the tree into the ground
• Reproduce with other trees
• Compete with other plants for nutrients and sunlight
• Movement into soil (bulb-forming plants)
Different Types of Roots
There are different types of roots that exist. The taproot, which exists in monocot plants, is the most well known. The problem is that not all trees have taproots. Some maple trees have taproots, but others do not. That’s because taproots develop in well-drained, sandy soil, but they are also dependent on the type of plant being prone to taproots.
Trees that don’t tend to develop taproots instead develop fibrous roots, which grow from monocot plants. Fibrous roots are a direct elongation of the radical with several lateral branches.
Similar to fibrous roots, adventitious roots differ in that they can be either underground or aerial (above-ground). This root growth happens from anywhere except the radical and arises from waterlogging, leaf and branch cuttings, or plant injury.
Creeping roots are common to many tree species. They are shallow and spread horizontally from the plant’s base.
Tree roots can generally be divided into woody and nonwoody. Nonwoody roots, also called feeder roots, absorb water and nutrients and are in the upper few inches of soil, so they are most affected by drought and soil disturbance. Woody roots are larger, lateral roots at the base of the stem that provide anchorage and support for the tree.
Sometimes a tree will develop striker roots, which grow in drier soils and serve as water and nutrient storage. This root growth goes vertically downward until they encounter an obstacle or insufficient oxygen, after which they branch and form more roots.
Myths About Root Growth
There are a few common misconceptions about root growth besides the myth that all trees grow taproots after the seedling stage or that deeper roots store water and nutrients. Another myth is that tree roots grow only to the tree’s dripline or canopy. Roots actually grow laterally at a distance equal to the tree’s height.
Another misconception is that damaged roots always induce canopy dieback on the same side. Instead, the dieback happens with individual branches, limbs, and areas of leaves rather than with entire areas. Some trees, like maples, can have branch death anywhere.
Root pruning is believed to stimulate root branching, but it doesn’t. Existing roots will create new root growth when it’s necessary.
Do I Need Irrigation?
Irrigation is a water delivery system that improves root function and root growth. At Deep Root Distribution, we have irrigation systems that deliver both water and liquid fertilizer directly and efficiently to different types of roots at specific soil depth levels and water requirements. One of our devices can improve the hardiness of your permanent crops.