Fruits are the dominant sinks for assimilates. At optimal conditions, assimilates supply can meet the demand of fruits and those of the vegetative organs; however, extreme circumstances such as strong sink strength or an environmental stress may disturb this fine balance. While most studies focus on aboveground parameters, information regarding root growth dynamics under variable sink strength are scarce. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of sink strength (represented by fruit load) and salinity on bell-pepper root development. Three levels of fruit load were combined with two salinity levels in plants grown in an aeroponic system. Root growth was determined both by root capacitance and destructive measurements. Salinity and sink strength significantly affected root, shoot and fruit growth dynamics. Root growth was less affected by fruit load. Salinity stress was negatively associated with shoot growth, but after an acclimation period, salinity enhanced root development. Additionally, this study shows for the first time that root capacitance is a valid approach for non-destructive measurement of root development in aeroponic systems. The good correlation measured by us (r2
0.86) opens new opportunities for continuous root growth monitoring in aeroponic systems in the future.
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