Research - Deep roots and crops

The Deep Frontier project is an excellent example of thinking differently – instead of expanding arable land horizontally in order to meet the demand for an increased food production, the project is looking into vertical expansion, i.e. how we can utilize soil nutrients down to 5 meters in the ground.

Crops currently used for food production normally do not grow roots below 1.5 meters. Therefore, it is important to identify crops that are able to grow deeper roots and utilize nutrients in subsoil. Here perennial crops may play an important part. This also means that cropping systems in the future most likely will have to change.

Deep rooted crops 
In order to explore nutrients in soil and how deep roots utilize nutrients the Deep Frontier project has established facilities in which these factors can be studied - 12 root towers, each being 4 meters tall, and 24 field plots with a depth of 5 meters.   

During the project Deep Frontier will identify deep rooted crops, besides the once we are already familiar with:

  • Cabbage 
  • Sugar beets 
  • Cover crops such as:
    • Chicory
    • Fodder radish 
    • Dyers voad 

Cropping systems of the future 
Mixed cropping systems will also be studied by combining well-known crops with deep rooted species. Also, mixed deep rooted cropping systems will be compared to crops in monoculture.

Additionally, the effects of sowing time and use of cover crops will be investigated, as this may increase the rooting depth in cropping systems with traditional crops. 

See the facilities