The growth of any plant depends on two important natural resources namely soil and water. Beside all the inputs used in agriculture, water is an important factor which regulates the efficiency of the other inputs viz., seeds, manures and fertilizers and also determines the soil physical properties like soil texture, bulk density, porosity, water holding capacity and microbial status. Soil provides the mechanical support and nutri­ent reservoir necessary for plant growth. Knowledge about available soil water and soil texture can influence the decision-making process, such as determining what crops to plant and when to irrigate. Besides all the other inputs, water is the most crucial input that governs the use efficiency of other costly inputs like seeds and fertilizers. Over exploitation of groundwater, climatic aberration, decline in water table have resulted in shortage of fresh water supplies for agricultural purpose. To overcome the problems associated with water, different management strategies for efficient utilization and conservation of water resources should be emphasized. Especially the strategies involved include conservation of water, integrated water use, optimum allocation of water and enhancing water use efficiency. And soil-water relations play a vital role in determining their use efficiency (Acharya, 2008).

Soil-water relations are expressed in terms of ability of the soil to retain, release and transmit water within and across the soil system to the atmosphere. The processes of infiltration, profile water storage, drainage, redistribution and evaporation of water from the soil are governed by its soil-water relations. The extent of runoff and erosion that erode the capacity of soil are governed by its soil water relations. The root growth and proliferation are directly related to water availability in the soil profile which also influences penetration resistance to the growing roots. Similarly the availability and movements of nutrients, process of salinization and alkalization are directly or indirectly influenced by soil water relations.

Soil-water-plant relations are deliberately combined in a relationship which can be expressed with a terminology called as Soil Plant Atmospheric Continuum (SPAC). SPAC is defined as the movement of water from the soil, through the plant and to the atmosphere along an interconnected film of liquid water (Lambers et al., 2008). Water movement through the SPAC is driven by the passive movement of water generated by an energy gradient. The energy gradient is created by a difference in water potential from high potential in the soil, to a gradually lower potential in the plant and the atmosphere.

Factors affecting Soil-Water-Plant Relationship
  •  There are three major factors that affect the soil water plant relations
  • 1.   Soil factors
  • 2.   Plant factors
  • 3.   Weather factors
Soil Factors: Any soil factor which affects root density or depth can be expected to influence the response of the crop to irrigation. Mechanical impedance, slow water penetration and poor internal drainage, and deficient aeration frequently are responsible for sparse and shallow roots. Soil structure, texture, and depth determine the total capacity of the soil for storing available water for plant growth. The total available moisture capacity within the root zone and the moisture-release characteristics of the soil are both important factors determining the rate of change in soil moisture tension or stress. Deep-rooted crops on deep soils usually show smaller responses to irrigations than shallower-rooted crops on the same soil. Crops growing on a soil in which 75 – 85% of the available water is released at tensions below one atmosphere may be expected to show a smaller response to irrigations at a given moisture depletion level than the same crops growing on a soil in which less than 50% is released at such low tensions. The rate at which water can move to the absorbing root surface may play an important part in water-soil-plant relations.

Plant factors: Several different aspects of plant growth-such as elongation of plant organs, increase in fresh or dry weight, and vegetative versus reproductive development are easily recognized. These processes are resultants of intricate combinations of many physiological processes which are probably not all equally affected by increasing soil moisture stress and an accompanying change in the internal balance of cells and tissues. Thus, it is not surprising that various measurable aspects of growth do not respond in the same manner to moisture stress.

Weather factors: Weather conditions particularly light and temperature may influence the growth characteristics of the shoot and root as to affect soil moisture-growth relations. The length of the crop season before fall rains or frost may at least partially determine whether harvestable yields will be affected by imposing different soil moisture stress levels during the growing period. Meteorological factors like light, temperature, humidity and wind control the rate of water loss by transpiration from plant leaves and evaporation from the soil surface. Plant growth is probably dependent upon plant turgor pressure, whose relation to soil moisture stress for different rates of transpiration needs to be explored. It can be reasoned that an increased rate of transpiration would lower the plant turgor corresponding to any given soil moisture stress.

Soil-water-plant relationships play an important role in determining input use efficiency. Models should be developed for better understanding of soil-water-tillage-nutrient-plant interaction with respect to input use efficiency. Optimal application of fertilizers according to soil type and crop requirement can help in proper utilization of fertilizers and minimize the wastage. Similar to that fertilizers and water (fertigation) also keeps the equal importance. Proper evaluation of all tillage practices (Zero/ Minimum tillage) as well as mulch practices. Role of organic and plastic mulching in resource conservation ensuring high input use efficiency, productivity and quality of the produce.

  • C. L. Acharya (2008). Soil-Water-Plant Relationships and Input use Efficiency. Journal of the Indian Society of Soil Science, 56(4):4004-4013.
  • H. Lambers, J. A. Raven, G. R. Shaver and S. E. Smith (2008). Plant nutrient-acquisition strategies change with soil age. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 23(2):95-103.

Bonti Gogoi
About the Author: Miss Bonti Gogoi did her B. Sc. and M. Sc. in Agriculture majoring in Agronomy from Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Jorhat, Assam (India) with first class. At present, besides working as a Junior Research Fellow in a DBT funded project, Miss Gogoi has been pursuing her Ph.D. in Agriculture (Agronomy) in the Department of Agronomy, AAU, Jorhat, Assam (India). Her area of specialization is weed science and crop management. She is engaged in writing articles and research papers. [Read More]


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