Uptake of nutrients and water depends on the growth of roots through elongation of individual cells near the. root tip. Many of the numerous components of Type I primary cell walls, those of dicotyledons and monocotyledons other than grasses (Poaceae), have been determined, and many hypotheses have been proposed for the control of cell expansion. This important aspect of plant growth still needs elucidation, however. A model is proposed in which pectin, which occurs as a calcium (Ca) pectate gel between the load-bearing cellulose microfibrils and xyloglucan (XG) chains, controls the rate at which cells expand. It is considered that the increasing tension generated by the expanding cell is transmitted to interlocked XG chains and cellulose microfibrils. The resulting deformation of the embedded Ca pectate gel elicits the excretion of protons from the cytoplasm, possibly via compounds such as cell wall-associated kinases, that weakens the Ca pectate gel, permitting slippage of XG molecules through the action of expansin. Further slippage is prevented by deformation of the pectic gel, proton diffusion, and the transfer of residual tension to adjacent XG chains. Evidence for this model is based on the effects of pH, Ca, and aluminum (Al) on root elongation and on the reactions of these cations with Ca pectate. This model allows for genetic selection of plants and adaptation of individual plants to root environmental conditions.