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Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Apr 1;36(7):1579-83.

Root turnover: an important source of microbial substrates in rhizosphere remediation of recalcitrant contaminants.

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Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, Norman 73019, USA.


The growth dynamics and phenolic content of mulberry (Morus sp.) fine roots (<1 mm diameter) were determined and examined in relationship to rhizosphere remediation of recalcitrant soil contaminants. Root turnover measurements of rhizotron-grown plants showed that 58% of the fine roots produced during a 6-month growing season (June-November) died at the end of the season. The concentration of phenolic compounds in fine roots increased approximately 2-fold during the later stages of the season, and the total phenolic content of dead fine roots reached a maximum value of 38 mg/g dry weight. The late-season increase in total phenolics was primarily due to accumulation of three different flavones (morusin, morusinol, and kuwanon C). These three flavones were shown to support the growth of the bacterium Burkholderia sp. LB400, a degrader of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Thus, it has been established that, upon death, the fine roots of mulberry can serve as a source of substrate for PCB-degrading bacteria. These results establish for the first time that the chemical content and turnover rate of fine roots should be considered an important aspect of rhizosphere remediation.

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