Root reinforcement: continuum framework for constitutive modelling

Gerrit J. Meijer, David Muir Wood, Jonathan A. Knappett, Glyn A. Bengough, Teng Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The mechanical contribution of plant roots to soil strength has typically been studied at the ultimate limit state only. Since many geotechnical problems are related to serviceability, such as deformation of infrastructure, a new constitutive modelling framework is introduced. The rooted soil is treated as a composite material with separate constitutive relationships for soil and roots, and a comprehensive stress-strain relationship for the root constituent is presented.

The model is compared to direct shear experiments on field soil reinforced with gorse, grass and willow roots, as well as an existing root reinforcement model based on Winkler-spring supported beam theory.

The results show that both the newly developed model and the beam-type model yield good predictions for the evolution of root-reinforced shear strength as a function of increasing shear displacements. Both successfully capture the large deformations required to reach peak reinforcement, the reduction in reinforcement due to root breakage and the presence of significant reinforcement even after very large deformations, associated with root slippage.

Since both fibre and beam models only require physically meaningful input parameters, they can be useful tools to study the mobilisation of rooted soil strength and simulate the response of rooted soil in continuum-based numerical simulations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-613
Issue number7
Early online date19 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2023


  • Vegetation
  • Constitutive modelling
  • Shear strength
  • Fibre reinforcement
  • Root reinforcement


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