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Modeling root growth in granular soils: Effects of root stiffness and packing fraction

Fakih M., Delenne J.Y., Radjai F., Fourcaud T.. 2017. In : Farhang Radjai (ed.), Stefan Luding (ed.), Saeid Nezamabadi (ed.), Jean-Yves Delenne (ed.). Powders and Grains 2017. Les Ulis : EDP Sciences; Curran Associates, p. 1576-1579. (EPJ Web of Conferences, 140). International Conference on Micromechanics on Granular Media. 8, 2017-07-03/2017-07-07, Montpellier (France).

DOI: 10.1051/epjconf/201714014013

We use molecular dynamics simulations to investigate the effects of root bending stiffness and packing fraction on the path followed by a growing root in 2D packings of grains representing a soil. The root is modeled as a chain of elements that can grow in length and change their direction depending on the forces exerted by soil grains. We show that the root shape is mainly controlled by the bending stiffness of its apex. At low stiffness, the root randomly explores the pore space whereas at sufficiently high stiffness, of the order of soil hardness multiplied by mean grain size, the root follows a straight path across the soil. Between these two limits, the root shape can be characterized by the standard deviation of its re-directions at the scale of soil grains. We find that this shape parameter varies as a power-law function of the normalized bending stiffness.

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