Construction of a large-scale semi-field facility to study genotypic differences in deep root growth and resources acquisition

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Background: Roots are vital organs for plants, and the effective use of resources from the soil is important for yield stability. However, phenotypic variation in root traits among crop genotypes is mostly unknown and field screening of root development is costly and labour demanding. As a consequence, new methods are needed to investigate root traits of fully grown crops under field conditions, particularly roots in the deeper soil horizons. Results: We developed a new phenotyping facility (RadiMax) for the study of root growth and soil resource acquisition under semi-field conditions. The facility consists of 4 units each covering 400 m 2 and containing 150 minirhizotrons, allowing root observation in the 0.4 m-1.8 m or 0.7 m-2.8 m soil depth interval. Roots are observed through minirhizotrons using a multispectral imaging system. Plants are grown in rows perpendicular to a water stress gradient created by a multi-depth sub-irrigation system and movable rainout shelters. The water stress gradient allows for a direct link between root observations and the development of stress response in the canopy. Conclusion: To test the concept and technical features, selected spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) cultivars were grown in the system for two seasons. The system enabled genotypic differences for deep root growth to be observed, and clear aboveground physiological response was also visible along the water stress gradient. Although further technical development and field validation are ongoing, the semi-field facility concept offers novel possibilities for characterising genotypic differences in the effective use of soil resources in deeper soil layers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number26
JournalPlant Methods
Pages (from-to)1-16
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2019

    Research areas

  • Drought, Minirhizotron, Nitrogen, Phenotyping, Root, Semi-field, Soil, Water

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ID: 224334635