The rhizosphere is regarded as the soil compartment with the highest level of nutrient flux through a multitude of interactions between plants, soil, and (micro)biota. Roots and associated (micro)organisms interact with heterogeneous soil environments that provide habitats for biota on various scales. High metabolic activity and nutrient cycling can be observed from single root tips to whole root systems which makes the rhizosphere of central importance for ecosystem functioning.
The main knowledge-gaps in rhizosphere research are related to the difficulty in mechanistically linking the physical, chemical and biological processes, taking place at different scales (nm to cm) in the rhizosphere and to the challenge of upscaling these processes to the scale of the root system and the soil profile. The key for overcoming these knowledge gaps is to understand rates of matter flux, and to link the spatial arrangement of the different interconnected components of the rhizosphere with their temporal dynamics. This requires concerted efforts to combine methods from different disciplines like plant genomics, imaging, soil physics, chemistry and microbiology.
We welcome experimental and modelling studies on rhizosphere functioning that aim at revealing spatial gradients of e.g. functional biodiversity of microorganisms, uptake and release patterns by roots, soil structure modification by root growth (and vice versa) as well as feedbacks between those processes in order to improve our mechanistic understanding of emerging properties like water acquisition, nutrient cycling, plant health, soil structure development and feedbacks among them.
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