Extracting multiple interacting root systems using X-ray microcomputed tomography.
ABSTRACT: Root system interactions and competition for resources are active areas of research that contribute to our understanding of how roots perceive and react to environmental conditions. Recent research has shown this complex suite of processes can now be observed in a natural environment (i.e. soil) through the use of X-ray microcomputed tomography (?CT), which allows non-destructive analysis of plant root systems. Due to their similar X-ray attenuation coefficients and densities, the roots of different plants appear as similar greyscale intensity values in ?CT image data. Unless they are manually and carefully traced, it has not previously been possible to automatically label and separate different root systems grown in the same soil environment. We present a technique, based on a visual tracking approach, which exploits knowledge of the shape of root cross-sections to automatically recover from X-ray ?CT data three-dimensional descriptions of multiple, interacting root architectures growing in soil. The method was evaluated on both simulated root data and real images of two interacting winter wheat Cordiale (Triticumaestivum L.) plants grown in a single soil column, demonstrating that it is possible to automatically segment different root systems from within the same soil sample. This work supports the automatic exploration of supportive and competitive foraging behaviour of plant root systems in natural soil environments.
Project description:X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) is a non-destructive imaging technique originally designed for diagnostic medicine, which was adopted for rhizosphere and soil science applications in the early 1980s. X-ray CT enables researchers to simultaneously visualise and quantify the heterogeneous soil matrix of mineral grains, organic matter, air-filled pores and water-filled pores. Additionally, X-ray CT allows visualisation of plant roots in situ without the need for traditional invasive methods such as root washing. However, one routinely unreported aspect of X-ray CT is the potential effect of X-ray dose on the soil-borne microorganisms and plants in rhizosphere investigations. Here we aimed to i) highlight the need for more consistent reporting of X-ray CT parameters for dose to sample, ii) to provide an overview of previously reported impacts of X-rays on soil microorganisms and plant roots and iii) present new data investigating the response of plant roots and microbial communities to X-ray exposure. Fewer than 5% of the 126 publications included in the literature review contained sufficient information to calculate dose and only 2.4% of the publications explicitly state an estimate of dose received by each sample. We conducted a study involving rice roots growing in soil, observing no significant difference between the numbers of root tips, root volume and total root length in scanned versus unscanned samples. In parallel, a soil microbe experiment scanning samples over a total of 24 weeks observed no significant difference between the scanned and unscanned microbial biomass values. We conclude from the literature review and our own experiments that X-ray CT does not impact plant growth or soil microbial populations when employing a low level of dose (<30 Gy). However, the call for higher throughput X-ray CT means that doses that biological samples receive are likely to increase and thus should be closely monitored.
Project description:Minimally invasive investigation of plant parts (root, stem, leaves, and flower) has good potential to elucidate the dynamics of plant growth, morphology, physiology, and root-rhizosphere interactions. Laboratory based absorption X-ray imaging and computed tomography (CT) systems are extensively used for in situ feasibility studies of plants grown in natural and artificial soil. These techniques have challenges such as low contrast between soil pore space and roots, long X-ray imaging time, and low spatial resolution. In this study, the use of synchrotron (SR) based phase contrast X-ray imaging (PCI) has been demonstrated as a minimally invasive technique for imaging plants. Above ground plant parts and roots of 10 day old canola and wheat seedlings grown in sandy clay loam soil were successfully scanned and reconstructed. Results confirmed that SR-PCI can deliver good quality images to study dynamic and real time processes such as cavitation and water-refilling in plants. The advantages of SR-PCI, effect of X-ray energy, and effective pixel size to study plant samples have been demonstrated. The use of contrast agents to monitor physiological processes in plants was also investigated and discussed.
Project description:Split root experiments have the potential to disentangle water transport in roots and soil, enabling the investigation of the water uptake pattern of a root system. Interpretation of the experimental data assumes that water flow between the split soil compartments does not occur. Another approach to investigate root water uptake is by numerical simulations combining soil and root water flow depending on the parameterization and description of the root system. Our aim is to demonstrate the synergisms that emerge from combining split root experiments with simulations. We show how growing root architectures derived from temporally repeated X-ray CT scanning can be implemented in numerical soil-plant models. Faba beans were grown with and without split layers and exposed to a single drought period during which plant and soil water status were measured. Root architectures were reconstructed from CT scans and used in the model R-SWMS (root-soil water movement and solute transport) to simulate water potentials in soil and roots in 3D as well as water uptake by growing roots in different depths. CT scans revealed that root development was considerably lower with split layers compared to without. This coincided with a reduction of transpiration, stomatal conductance and shoot growth. Simulated predawn water potentials were lower in the presence of split layers. Simulations showed that this was related to an increased resistance to vertical water flow in the soil by the split layers. Comparison between measured and simulated soil water potentials proved that the split layers were not perfectly isolating and that redistribution of water from the lower, wetter compartments to the drier upper compartments took place, thus water losses were not equal to the root water uptake from those compartments. Still, the layers increased the resistance to vertical flow which resulted in lower simulated collar water potentials that led to reduced stomatal conductance and growth.
Project description:Background:X-ray computed tomography (CT) allows us to visualize root system architecture (RSA) beneath the soil, non-destructively and in a three-dimensional (3-D) form. However, CT scanning, reconstruction processes, and root isolation from X-ray CT volumes, take considerable time. For genetic analyses, such as quantitative trait locus mapping, which require a large population size, a high-throughput RSA visualization method is required. Results:We have developed a high-throughput process flow for the 3-D visualization of rice (Oryza sativa) RSA (consisting of radicle and crown roots), using X-ray CT. The process flow includes use of a uniform particle size, calcined clay to reduce the possibility of visualizing non-root segments, use of a higher tube voltage and current in the X-ray CT scanning to increase root-to-soil contrast, and use of a 3-D median filter and edge detection algorithm to isolate root segments. Using high-performance computing technology, this analysis flow requires only 10 min (33 s, if a rough image is acceptable) for CT scanning and reconstruction, and 2 min for image processing, to visualize rice RSA. This reduced time allowed us to conduct the genetic analysis associated with 3-D RSA phenotyping. In 2-week-old seedlings, 85% and 100% of radicle and crown roots were detected, when 16 cm and 20 cm diameter pots were used, respectively. The X-ray dose per scan was estimated at?<?0.09 Gy, which did not impede rice growth. Using the developed process flow, we were able to follow daily RSA development, i.e., 4-D RSA development, of an upland rice variety, over 3 weeks. Conclusions:We developed a high-throughput process flow for 3-D rice RSA visualization by X-ray CT. The X-ray dose assay on plant growth has shown that this methodology could be applicable for 4-D RSA phenotyping. We named the RSA visualization method 'RSAvis3D' and are confident that it represents a potentially efficient application for 3-D RSA phenotyping of various plant species.
Project description:The rhizosphere is the zone of soil influenced by a plant root and is critical for plant health and nutrient acquisition. All below ground resources must pass through this dynamic zone prior to their capture by plant roots. However, researching the undisturbed rhizosphere has proved very challenging. Here we compare the temporal changes to the intact rhizosphere pore structure during the emergence of a developing root system in different soils. High resolution X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) was used to quantify the impact of root development on soil structural change, at scales relevant to individual micro-pores and aggregates (µm). A comparison of micro-scale structural evolution in homogenously packed soils highlighted the impacts of a penetrating root system in changing the surrounding porous architecture and morphology. Results indicate the structural zone of influence of a root can be more localised than previously reported (µm scale rather than mm scale). With time, growing roots significantly alter the soil physical environment in their immediate vicinity through reducing root-soil contact and crucially increasing porosity at the root-soil interface and not the converse as has often been postulated. This 'rhizosphere pore structure' and its impact on associated dynamics are discussed.
Project description:Plant roots growing through soil typically encounter considerable structural heterogeneity, and local variations in soil dry bulk density. The way the in situ architecture of root systems of different species respond to such heterogeneity is poorly understood due to challenges in visualising roots growing in soil. The objective of this study was to visualise and quantify the impact of abrupt changes in soil bulk density on the roots of three cover crop species with contrasting inherent root morphologies, viz. tillage radish (Raphanus sativus), vetch (Vicia sativa) and black oat (Avena strigosa). The species were grown in soil columns containing a two-layer compaction treatment featuring a 1.2 g cm-3 (uncompacted) zone overlaying a 1.4 g cm-3 (compacted) zone. Three-dimensional visualisations of the root architecture were generated via X-ray computed tomography, and an automated root-segmentation imaging algorithm. Three classes of behaviour were manifest as a result of roots encountering the compacted interface, directly related to the species. For radish, there was switch from a single tap-root to multiple perpendicular roots which penetrated the compacted zone, whilst for vetch primary roots were diverted more horizontally with limited lateral growth at less acute angles. Black oat roots penetrated the compacted zone with no apparent deviation. Smaller root volume, surface area and lateral growth were consistently observed in the compacted zone in comparison to the uncompacted zone across all species. The rapid transition in soil bulk density had a large effect on root morphology that differed greatly between species, with major implications for how these cover crops will modify and interact with soil structure.
Project description:Root growth responds to local differences in N-form and concentration. This is known for artificial systems and assumed to be valid in soil. The purpose of this study is to challenge this assumption for soil mesocosms locally supplied with urea with and without nitrification inhibitor. Soil column experiments with Vicia faba ('Fuego') and Hordeum vulgare ('Marthe') were performed to investigate soil solution chemistry and root growth response of these two species with contrasting root architectures to the different N-supply simultaneously. Root growth was analysed over time and separately for the fertiliser layer and the areas above and below with X-ray CT (via region growing) and WinRHIZO. Additionally, NO3- and NH4+ in soil and soil solution were analysed. In Vicia faba, no pronounced differences were observed, although CT analysis indicated different root soil exploration for high NH4+. In Hordeum vulgare, high NO3- inhibited lateral root growth while high NH4+ stimulated the formation of first order laterals. The growth response to locally distributed N-forms in soil is species specific and less pronounced than in artificial systems. The combination of soil solution studies and non-invasive imaging of root growth can substantially improve the mechanistic understanding of root responses to different N-forms in soil.
Project description:Leaching of nitrate from fertilisers diminishes nitrogen use efficiency (the portion of nitrogen used by a plant) and is a major source of agricultural pollution. To improve nitrogen capture, grasses such as brachiaria are increasingly used, especially in South America and Africa, as a cover crop, either via intercropping or in rotation. However, the complex interactions between soil structure, nitrogen and the root systems of maize and different species of forage grasses remain poorly understood. This study explored how soil structure modification by the roots of maize (Zea maize), palisade grass (Brachiaria brizantha cv. Marandu) and ruzigrass (Brachiaria ruziziensis) affected nitrate leaching and retention, measured via chemical breakthrough curves. All plants were found to increase the rate of nitrate transport suggesting root systems increase the tendency for preferential flow. The greater density of fine roots produced by palisade grass, subtly decreased nitrate leaching potential through increased complexity of the soil pore network assessed with X-ray Computed Tomography. A dominance of larger roots in ruzigrass and maize increased nitrate loss through enhanced solute flow bypassing the soil matrix. These results suggest palisade grass could be a more efficient nitrate catch crop than ruzigrass (the most extensively used currently in countries such as Brazil) due to retardation in solute flow associated with the fine root system and the complex pore network.
Project description:Zero-tillage (ZT) is being increasingly adopted globally as a conservationist management system due to the environmental and agronomic benefits it provides. However, there remains little information on the tillage effect on soil pore characteristics such as shape, size and distribution, which in turn affect soil physical, chemical and biological processes. X-ray micro Computed Tomography (?CT) facilitates a non-destructive method to assess soil structural properties in three-dimensions. We used X-ray ?CT at a resolution of 70??m to assess and calculate the shape, size and connectivity of the pore network in undisturbed soil samples collected from a long-term experiment (~30?years) under zero tillage (ZT) and conventional tillage (CT) systems in Botucatu, Southeastern Brazil. In both systems, a single, large pore (>1000?mm3) typically contributed to a large proportion of macroporosity, 91% in CT and 97% in ZT. Macroporosity was higher in ZT (19.7%) compared to CT (14.3%). However the average number of pores was almost twice in CT than ZT. The largest contribution in both treatments was from very complex shaped pores, followed by triaxial and acircular shaped. Pore connectivity analysis indicated that the soil under ZT was more connected that the soil under CT. Soil under CT had larger values of tortuosity than ZT in line with the connectivity results. The results from this study indicate that long-term adoption of ZT leads to higher macroporosity and connectivity of pores which is likely to have positive implications for nutrient cycling, root growth, soil gas fluxes and water dynamics.
Project description:OpenSimRoot is an open-source, functional-structural plant model and mathematical description of root growth and function. We describe OpenSimRoot and its functionality to broaden the benefits of root modeling to the plant science community. OpenSimRoot is an extended version of SimRoot, established to simulate root system architecture, nutrient acquisition and plant growth. OpenSimRoot has a plugin, modular infrastructure, coupling single plant and crop stands to soil nutrient and water transport models. It estimates the value of root traits for water and nutrient acquisition in environments and plant species. The flexible OpenSimRoot design allows upscaling from root anatomy to plant community to estimate the following: resource costs of developmental and anatomical traits; trait synergisms; and (interspecies) root competition. OpenSimRoot can model three-dimensional images from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and X-ray computed tomography (CT) of roots in soil. New modules include: soil water-dependent water uptake and xylem flow; tiller formation; evapotranspiration; simultaneous simulation of mobile solutes; mesh refinement; and root growth plasticity. OpenSimRoot integrates plant phenotypic data with environmental metadata to support experimental designs and to gain a mechanistic understanding at system scales.