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Affordable and robust phenotyping framework to analyse root system architecture of soil-grown plants

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Published: 11 March 2019
Abstract: The analysis of root system growth, root phenotyping, is important to inform efforts to enhance plant resource acquisition from soils. However, root phenotyping remains challenging due to soil opacity and requires systems that optimize root visibility and image acquisition. Previously reported systems require costly and bespoke materials not available in most countries, where breeders need tools to select varieties best adapted to local soils and field conditions. Here, we present an affordable soil-based growth container (rhizobox) and imaging system to phenotype root development in greenhouses or shelters. All components of the system are made from commodity components, locally available worldwide to facilitate the adoption of this affordable technology in low-income countries. The rhizobox is large enough (~6000 cm2 visible soil) to not restrict vertical root system growth for at least seven weeks after sowing, yet light enough (~21 kg) to be routinely moved manually. Support structures and an imaging station, with five cameras covering the whole soil surface, complement the rhizoboxes. Images are acquired via the Phenotiki sensor interface, collected, stitched and analysed. Root system architecture (RSA) parameters are quantified without intervention. RSA of a dicot (chickpea, Cicer arietinum L.) and a monocot (barley, Hordeum vulgare L.) species, which exhibit contrasting root systems, were analysed. The affordable system is relevant for efforts in Ethiopia and elsewhere to enhance yields and climate resilience of chickpea and other crops for improved food security.Significance StatementAn affordable system to characterize root system architecture of soil-grown plants was developed. Using commodity components, this will enable local efforts world-wide to breed for enhanced root systems.
Keywords: optimize / root system / Affordable / system growth / Soil Grown Plants / Commodity Components / architecture of soil

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