The University of Southampton
Engineering and the Environment

Research project: X-ray Computed Tomography and image-based modelling of plant roots and nutrient uptake

Currently Active: 

A multidisciplinary project to improve nutrient uptake models through high resolution CT imaging of plant roots and root hairs, allowing real soil/root interactions to be uncovered.

Project Overview

A major constraint on the production of crops is the poor bioavailability of edaphic nutrients, especially phosphate (P). Root and root hair traits are highly important for uptake of such nutrients. Advances in molecular genetics have provided the capability to breed plants with improved root and hair phenotypes, with manipulation of length and spatial patterning traits providing a route to enhanced nutrient uptake from poor soils. Discovery of optimal traits for P uptake is particularly important since rock P resources are predicted to be exhausted in the next 50-100 years [3], meaning alternatives to traditional, inefficient fertilization are urgently required.

The μ-VIS Centre for X-ray Computed Tomography is allowing root and soil interactions to be uncovered non-destructively. High resolution imaging of plant roots in real soil at a number of scales allows different root traits to be characterised, and nutrient uptake models to be parameterised with real undisturbed root and soil geometry. This multidisciplinary approach is helping us to understand how specific root traits improve uptake efficiency of essential nutrient resources.

Associated research themes

Institute for Life Sciences

Crop Systems Engineering Group

Sustainability Science

Related research groups

Bioengineering Science


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