Scientists examine plant roots to make improvements, enhance water-use efficiency
A team of scientists led by Texas A&M AgriLife is taking a page from the medical imaging world and using MRI to examine crop roots in a quest to develop crops with stronger and deeper root systems.
The team from Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Harvard Medical School, ABQMR Inc. and Soil Health Institute developed a novel MRI-based root phenotyping system to nondestructively acquire high-resolution images of plant roots growing in soil and established the Texas A&M Roots Lab to further develop this technology as a new tool for assessing crop root traits.
The “Field-Deployable Magnetic Resonance Imaging Rhizotron for Modeling and Enhancing Root Growth and Biogeochemical Function” is a part of the Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration, ROOTS, program funded through U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program.
Nithya Rajan, Ph.D., AgriLife Research crop physiologist/agroecologist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Bryan-College Station, is leading this multidisciplinary project team.
“We are applying this technology to see if we can sense roots growing in agricultural soils and characterize them,” she said. “To date, imaging roots in soil has been challenging because the soil is complex, with solids, moisture and roots. We just want to image the roots.”