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Green fluorescent protein (GFP) for studying synchronicity of root location in mixed plant stands

English title Green fluorescent protein (GFP) for studying synchronicity of root location in mixed plant stands
Applicant Stamp Peter
Number 112634
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Departement Umweltsystemwissenschaften ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
Start/End 01.08.2006 - 31.12.2009
Approved amount 203'836.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Agricultural and Forestry Sciences
Environmental Research

Keywords (6)

below-ground plant interactions; cover crop; cropping systems; green fluorescent protein (GFP); italian ryegrass (lolium multiflorum lam.); living mulch

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Root exploration at the field scale has been rarely studied due to methodological constraints: roots are hidden in the soil, entangled with the medium and with each other. Thus, progress in root research depends on the development of methodologies that are fast, cheap and less tedious.
More sustainable agricultural practices might be achieved by growing more than one crop on the same field. But for this, interspecific plant interactions must first be understood and drawbacks solved. Thus, in terms of root research, the ability to precisely and efficiently distinguish between roots of different species is fundamental for studying and developing such cropping systems. This project aims at the development and application of a method for studying soil exploration by roots in mixed crops.
We are proposing a novel experimental approach to overcome methodological difficulties in root research mentioned above. The root fluorescence of a genetically transformed maize (Zea mays L.) genotype, which expresses the green fluorescent protein (GFP), can be observed through minirhizotrons at defined soil positions. This innovative approach has to be calibrated and standardized for the unequivocal identification of the maize roots in model mixed stands with Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) in order to map the root distribution of both species.To achieve these goals pretested containers will be equipped with minirhizotrons allowing for the transmission of fluorescent light. A image system based on a special minirhizotron camera for in situ soil observations will be adapted for the specific requirements of the present study. In a two phase approach the optimal sampling frequency of fluorescing roots will be established and followed by a first real-time application of the methodology comparing the root growth in single and mixed plant stands.
Thus root fluorescence will literally bring light into root research. It will specifically reveal the segregation of the root system of plants grown in association and it will also contribute to the more general issue of temporal and spatial patterns of root distribution. Once developed, the combination of the precise information about the root systems provided by GFP root fluorescence with data on shoot growth and soil resource availability will provide a unique and integrated analysis of soil, root and shoot processes. It has also the potential to contribute for the development, calibration and validation of process oriented models. Root fluorescence is a powerful and urgently needed tool to understand root physiology and ecology and offers new opportunities for research in intercropping, agroforestry and weed science.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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