Aims: This study analyzed the extent to which root exudates diffuse from the root surface towards the soil depending on topsoil and subsoil properties and the effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal hyphae on root-derived C distribution in the rhizosphere.
Methods: Alfalfa was grown in three-compartment pots. Nylon gauze prevented either roots alone or roots and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal hyphae from penetrating into the rhizosphere compartments. 14CO2 pulse labeling enabled the measurement of 14C-labeled exudates in dissolved (DOC) and total organic carbon (TOC) in the rhizosphere, distributed either by diffusion alone or by diffusion, root hair and hyphal transport.
Results: Root exudation and microbial decomposition of exudates was higher in the rhizosphere with topsoil compared to subsoil properties. Exudates extended over 28 mm (DOC) and 20 mm (TOC). Different soil properties and mycorrhization, likely caused by the low arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization of roots (13 ± 4 % (topsoil properties) and 18 ± 5 % (subsoil properties)), had no effect.
Conclusions: Higher microbial decomposition compensated for higher root exudation into the rhizosphere with topsoil properties, which resulted in equal exudate extent when compared to the rhizosphere with subsoil properties. Higher 14C activity used for labeling compared with previous studies enabled the detection of low exudate concentrations at longer distances from the root surface.