- •We found significant genetic variation in the ability of wheat (Triticum aestivum) to form rhizosheaths on acid soil and assessed whether differences in aluminium (Al3+) tolerance of root hairs between genotypes was the physiological basis for this genetic variation.
- •A method was developed to rapidly screen rhizosheath size in a range of wheat genotypes. Backcrossed populations were generated from cv Fronteira (large rhizosheath) using cv EGA-Burke (small rhizosheath) as the recurrent parent.
- •A positive correlation existed between rhizosheath size on acid soil and root hair length. In hydroponic experiments, root hairs of the backcrossed lines with large rhizosheaths were more tolerant of Al3+ toxicity than the backcrossed lines with small rhizosheaths.
- •We conclude that greater Al3+ tolerance of root hairs underlies the larger rhizosheath of wheat grown on acid soil. Tolerance of the root hairs to Al3+ was largely independent of the TaALMT1 gene which suggests that different genes encode the Al3+ tolerance of root hairs. The maintenance of longer root hairs in acid soils is important for the efficient uptake of water and nutrients.