Jülich and LemnaTec to launch systems for digital root analysis on the market
Jülich, 24 November – Roots are essential parts of plants. They ensure the plant’s stability and are vital for the efficient uptake of nutrients and water – key topics for sustainable agriculture. Plant roots play an important role in solving the major challenges facing world food security, such as salinity, drought, storm, and erosion, and they are increasingly becoming a focal point for plant breeding and research. Scientists at Forschungszentrum Jülich investigate roots to understand their functions and to identify breeding traits and new compounds. Together with LemnaTec GmbH, Forschungszentrum Jülich will further develop this root-analysis technology to make it ready for the market.
Scientists at the Institute for Bio- and Geosciences (IBG-2) use rhizotrons (root measuring boxes) to enable quantitative root measurements in greater numbers, a method referred to as ‘root phenotyping’. Rhizotrons are boxes that can be filled with different types of soil or substrates. They have a transparent window on one side through which growing roots can be observed. A large number of such rhizotrons are moved by automated robotic systems to measuring stations, where they are imaged and measured with sensors. The automation of the system enables high throughput and accuracy.
Scientists and engineers at IBG-2 have developed this accurate and efficient technology to a stage at which it is ready for use in research. To prepare it for the market, IBG-2 is working together with the newly restructured company LemnaTec GmbH, a partner with experience in plant phenotyping technology, its markets, and user community.
Since 1998, LemnaTec has been developing and distributing systems for digital quantification of phenotypic traits of organisms, particularly plants. To do so, LemnaTec deploys digital cameras with corresponding illumination and evaluates the recordings with dedicated software. Until now, the plant shoot has been the focus of the analysis. Cameras for visible light are used in combination with cameras for non-visible wavelengths and fluorescence light, as well as hyperspectral cameras that take images of many closely neighbouring wavelengths in a stacked manner. For the root analysis, high-resolution, visible-light cameras will be used. For both shoot and root analyses, the recorded data will be stored together with corresponding metadata in databases and made available for further examination.
LemnaTec and Forschungszentrum Jülich together aim to deploy a globally innovative technology – the rhizotron systems – as robust tools, and they hope to cooperate with further partners in future.