Root development and root phenotyping are assessed under high-throughput conditions with LemnaTec scanalyzer3D systems, by using transparent pots or columns. In this way, real soils can be utilised as root environment, thus solving the problem of non-transparency of soil.

Root Development and Root Phenotyping

In contrast to the intensive breeding efforts for shoot development, root development is much less intensively used to enhance plant performance. Yet farmers have far more influence on changing the root environment in the soil – for example by their choice of tillage, watering and fertilising methods – than they will ever have on the aerial environmental conditions of their fields.

As roots are generally growing in dark, non-transparent soil, the amount of information available about root architecture and root development is increasing far more slowly than the knowledge about shoot development. Especially high-throughput test series showing the dynamic development of root systems have remained difficult to design. Many requirements of root growth and data acquisition are conflictive (e.g. growing in the dark – imaging in light; covering large soil volumes –technical limitations of looking through soil ).

Root development and root phenotyping using LemnaTec scanalyzer3D technologies

To make the best of a bad situation, LemnaTec has developed plant carriers that allow the root system to grow in the dark under relatively low temperatures, with shades that will open just for the image acquisition in the scanalyzer3D root imaging units. Roots hitting the walls of these transparent vessels are imaged in their dynamic behaviour over time, which allows drawing conclusions by modelling the time span of growth even before they hit the wall. In addition, NIR-measurements of soil humidity profiles can detect from which areas visible as well as non-visible roots extract their water. Thus, it is possible to assess in detail a functional parameter of the root system, and not merely the result of the historic root development, in contrast to methods where root systems are analysed through harvesting. Such experiments can be performed in real soil samples, but peat or artificial, even transparent media are also an option.

For small, petri dish- or multiwell-based root experiments like slant agar plates, the scanalyzerHTS offers high resolution imaging as well. The scanalyzerHTS can moreover be used to quantify root cyst-nematodes grown on root systems in petri dishes.