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

Bontpart, T and Concha, C and Giuffrida, M V and Robertson, I and Admkie, K and Abdi, T D and Wordofa, N G and Tesfaye, K and Teklu, T H and Fikre, A and Fetene, M and Tsaftaris, S and Doerner, P (2020) Affordable and robust phenotyping framework to analyse root system architecture of soil-grown plants. The Plant Journal. pp. 1-13. (Unpublished)

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The phenotypic analysis of root system growth is important to inform efforts to enhance plant resource acquisition from soils; however, root phenotyping remains challenging because of the opacity of soil, requiring systems that facilitate root system visibility and image acquisition. Previously reported systems require costly or bespoke materials not available in most countries, where breeders need tools to select varieties best adapted to local soils and field conditions. Here, we report an affordable soil-based growth (rhizobox) and imaging system to phenotype root development in glasshouses or shelters. All components of the system are made from locally available commodity components, facilitating the adoption of this affordable technology in low-income countries. The rhizobox is large enough (approximately 6000 cm2 of visible soil) to avoid restricting vertical root system growth for most if not all of the life cycle, yet light enough (approximately 21 kg when filled with soil) for routine handling. 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. The RSAs of a dicot species (Cicer arietinum, chickpea) and a monocot species (Hordeum vulgare, barley), exhibiting contrasting root systems, were analysed. Insights into root system dynamics during vegetative and reproductive stages of the chickpea life cycle were obtained. This affordable system is relevant for efforts in Ethiopia and other low- and middle-income countries to enhance crop yields and climate resilience sustainably.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Research Program : East & Southern Africa
Uncontrolled Keywords: Image-based plant phenotyping, Root system architecture, Rhizobox, Cicer arietinum, Raspberry Pi, Phenotiki, Technical advance
Subjects: Others > Soil
Mandate crops > Chickpea
Others > Plant Growth
Others > Ethiopia
Depositing User: Mr Ramesh K
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2019 03:24
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2020 12:37
Official URL:
Funders: BBSRC
Acknowledgement: The authors thank Joanna Jones and S�eyhmus D€undar for testing some initial rhizobox designs, Sam Anderson and Javier Sur�ıs Auguet for help with soil preparation and building in glasshouse, Peter Hoebe from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) for providing barley seeds. PD thanks BBSRC (BB IAA 15/16–PD & BB GC IAA 16/17) for funding which supported early-stage work with rhizoboxes. ST and PD thank BBSRC for funding (BB/P023487/1). CC thanks CONICYT PFCHA/DOCTORADO BECAS CHILE/2016 – 72170128 for a PhD scholarship. This research was carried out with resources provided by the Edinburgh Plant Growth Facility, a specialist service provider for plant growth at the University of Edinburgh.
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