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The University of Southampton
Interdisciplinary Research Excellence

Exploring the rhizosphere: Imaging plant-soil interactions using X-ray CT Event

Institute for Life Sciences
Credit: Tim Green Creative Commons
13:00 - 14:00
24 June 2016
University of Southampton, Highfield Campus, Building 85, Room 2209.

For more information regarding this event, please email Dr Keith Daly at .

Event details

Crop Systems Seminar Series: Dr Saoirse Tracy of University College Dublin's School of Agriculture & Food Science


Abstract: Although roots play a crucial role in plant growth and development through their acquisition and delivery of water and nutrients to the above-ground organs, our understanding of how they interact with their immediate soil environment largely remains a mystery as the opaque nature of soil has prevented undisturbed in situ root visualisation. The use of non-invasive techniques such as X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) means that it is now possible to visualise a growing root within an undisturbed soil core. X-ray CT is a technique that enables non-destructive 3-D investigations into root:soil interactions at the micro-scale. By imaging the actual 3D geometries of the soil structure and visualising the interfaces between roots, soil, water and air filled pores an accurate representation of water movement and root growth in soil is achieved. Previous commonly employed destructive methods for root studies, such as root washing could not provide detailed information on root architecture, including branching characteristics and extension rate, which are inherently linked to conditions within the soil matrix. Therefore this technique can enable root phenotyping of different crop species and varieties in soil. This information is crucial if laboratory research is to be translated to an understanding of responses under field conditions.

Image Credit: Tim Green, under Creative Commons licence 2.0

Speaker information

Dr Saoirse Tracy,University College Dublin, School of Agriculture & Food Science,My research interests include using X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) to understand the response of roots to the soil physical environment. During my PhD I investigated the response of root system architecture (RSA) to soil compaction. This work was among the first to capitalise on technological advancements in CT scanning and meant I could scan samples faster and at finer resolutions than was previously achievable. In my first year I travelled to the University of Adelaide to gain experience using their CT scanner to examine wheat root systems. My other PhD experiments focussed on and the responses of tomato roots to several soil physical treatments and I measured a variety of root traits using software developed in collaboration with colleagues in the School of Computer Science. I also have extensive experience of using destructive techniques to study roots including root washing and WinRhizo analysis. My postdoctoral project allowed me to investigate the distribution of water in the soil and water uptake by roots using new techniques and image analysis regimes. Collaboration with mathematical modellers at the University of Southampton allows my experimental data to feed directly into models being developed based on hydraulic movement of water in soil. I would like to apply my skills and experience of X-ray CT, soil science, hydrology, plant biology and image analysis to answer further questions about the rhizosphere and plant function.

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