• amino acids;
  • anions;
  • carbohydrates;
  • cations;
  • circumnutation;
  • deposition rate;
  • digital image processing;
  • dynamics;
  • hydroponics;
  • nitrogen


A combined analysis of growth and metabolite composition was performed in primary roots of Zea mays L. (Var. Alexander). The seedlings were hydroponically cultivated either in pure water or in complete nutrient solution. The overall root growth performance was similar in both treatments. Yet, digital image sequence processing methods resolved, that growth distribution and oscillatory movements within the growth zone depended strongly on external nutrient availability. Metabolite concentration profiles were similar in both treatments for most investigated metabolites, indicating a thorough mobilization of nutrient resources from the seed, but concentrations of glutamine, glutamic acid, NO3, NH4+, malate and citrate showed pronounced differences between treatments. No diurnal variations in metabolite concentrations were found. Deposition rate profiles were in general more similar to relative elemental growth rate profiles than concentration profiles and were not affected by the treatment. Major ions were deposited maximally in front of the centre of growth activity, while greatest hexose deposition was found behind that. Relative to their abundance in the root growth zone, net rates of transfer from mature tissue were highest for sucrose, glutamic acid and aspartic acid, whereas glucose, fructose and most amino acids inversely showed high net rates of transfer out of the root growth zone, indicating a high catabolic rate for those substances there. NO3, but not other nutrients, was transferred to a great extent from the root growth zone to the mature tissue in nutrient solution. Overall, the results show, that a careful analysis of growth dynamics allows quantifying and interpreting a number of important flux parameters in the growing organ and that the performance of the primary root does not depend strongly on external nutrient availability.