In the perspective of a second Green Revolution, aiming, unlike the first one, to enhance yields of crops in a low fertility context, the strategies used by plants for an optimal uptake of soil nutrients are at the core of the problem. To solve it and identify ideal breeds among the genetic diversity of crops, plant root systems, their development and their architecture, are called upon to play the leading role. The variability among secondary roots appears as a crucial feature for the optimality of soil exploration and acquisition of mobile and immobile resources, but this phenomenon remains poorly understood. The work presented in this thesis focuses on the lateral roots of maize (Zea mays L.) and attempts to unravel the processes at the origin of intrinsic variations in lateral root development. It relies notably on the phenotyping of individual lateral roots at an unprecedented scale, tracking the daily growth of thousands of them at a high spatial resolution, in order to characterize precisely the spatio-temporal variations existing both between and within root individuals. Individual growth rate profiles were analyzed with a statistical model that identified three main temporal trends in growth rates leading to the definition of three lateral root classes with contrasted growth rates and growth duration. Differences in lateral root diameter at root emergence (originating at the primordium stage) were likely to condition the followed growth trend but did not seem enough to entirely determine lateral root fate. Lastly, these lateral root classes were randomly distributed along the primary root, suggesting that there is no local inhibition or stimulation between neighbouring lateral roots. In order to explain the origin of the observed differences in growth behaviour, we complemented our study with a multi-scale characterization of groups of lateral roots with contrasted growth at a cellular, anatomical and molecular level. A particular focus is set on the analysis of cell length profiles in lateral root apices for which we introduced a segmentation model to identify developmental zones. Using this method, we evidenced strong modulations in the length of the division and elongation zones that could be closely related to variations in lateral root growth. The regulatory role of auxin on the balance between cellular proliferation and elongation processes is demonstrated through the analysis of mutant lines. Ultimately, variations in lateral root growth are traced back to the allocation of carbon assimilates and the transport capacity of the root, suggesting that a feedback control loop mechanism could play a determinant role in the setting out of contrasted lateral root growth trends.