Model and whole-plant studies on the anchorage capabilities of bulbs

S. B. Mickovski, A. R. Ennos

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Though the resistance to uprooting of cylindrical roots and root systems has been extensively investigated, almost no research has been performed on the factors that influence the uprooting resistance of bulbs. However, engineers have modelled bulb-like foundations and have investigated their resistance to upward movements. This study combined engineering theory with practical biology, using model bulbs of different shapes and sizes, embedding them at different depths in different soil media, and pulling them out while recording the uprooting force. Uprooting resistances of the models was compared to those of real onion and garlic bulbs with and without their root systems. Cone shaped models resisted uprooting best at all embedment depths and in both soil types, always followed by bulb shaped and cylindrical models. These results are explicable in terms of engineering theory. Cones resisted uprooting best because their maximum diameter is embedded deepest. A bulb shape is an ideal compromise as it has no sharp edges, and also allows easy downward movement. In sand uprooting resistance increased faster with depth than with bulb diameter, whereas in agricultural soils, the uprooting force was proportional both to the depth and the diameter of the model. The tests on the plants showed that real bulbs anchor plants by similar mechanisms and amounts to the models. The bulbs accounted for between 15% and 50% of the uprooting resistance of the plant, so they can make an important contribution to anchorage, particularly towards the end of the season.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)641-652
    Number of pages11
    JournalPlant and Soil
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003


    • Allium cepa
    • Allium sativum
    • Anchorage
    • Bulbs
    • Modelling
    • Uprooting resistance


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