Project Innovation + Advantages:
Texas A&M AgriLife Research will develop low field magnetic resonance imaging (LF-MRI) instrumentation that can image intact soil-root systems. The system will measure root biomass, architecture, 3D mass distribution, and growth rate, and could be used for selection of ideal plant characteristics based on these root metrics. It will also have the ability to three-dimensionally image soil water content, a key property that drives root growth and exploration. Operating much like a MRI used in a medical setting, the system can function in the field without damaging plants, unlike traditional methods such as trenching, soil coring, and root excavation. The team will test two different approaches: an in-ground system shaped like a cylinder that can be inserted into the soil to surround the roots; and a coil device that can be deployed on the soil surface around the plant stem. If successful, these systems can help scientists better understand the root-water-soil interactions that drive processes such as nutrient uptake by crops, water use, and carbon management. This new information is crucial for the development of plants optimized for carbon sequestration without sacrificing economic yield. The project also aims to help develop ideal energy sorghum possessing high root growth rates, roots with more vertical angles, and roots that are more drought resistant and proliferate under water limiting conditions.
If successful, developments made under the ROOTS program will produce crops that will greatly increase carbon uptake in soil, helping to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, decrease nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, and improve agricultural productivity.