2020 Volume 37 Issue 4 Pages 481-484
Plants establish their root system as a three-dimensional structure, which is then used to explore the soil to absorb resources and provide mechanical anchorage. Simplified two-dimensional growth systems, such as agar plates, have been used to study various aspects of plant root biology. However, it remains challenging to study the more realistic three-dimensional structure and function of roots hidden in opaque soil. Here, we optimized X-ray computer tomography (CT)-based visualization of an intact root system by using Toyoura sand, a standard silica sand used in geotechnology research, as a growth substrate. Distinct X-ray attenuation densities of root tissue and Toyoura sand enabled clear image segmentation of the CT data. Sorghum grew especially vigorously in Toyoura sand and it could be used as a model for analyzing root structure optimization in response to mechanical obstacles. The use of Toyoura sand has the potential to link plant root biology and geotechnology applications.