Susan Zappala

Susan’s work centres on utilising X-ray Micro-Computed Tomography to visualise plants growing in soil and is part of an interdisciplinary project with the School of Computer Science.The project aims to isolate root architecture traits that improve phosphorus use efficiency in crop species. In general, shallower root systems are more successful at acquiring phosphorus. The overarching hypothesis for this work is that agravitropic root systems of model plants Arabidopsis thaliana and Oryza sativa will more efficiently extract phosphorus from soil than their wildtype, gravitropic counterparts. Most experiments that pinpoint gene expression and signalling related to phosphorus deficiency employ non-soil media such as agar or sand. This is likely because of the heterogeneity of soil and the difficulty for visualisation in the opaque medium. X-ray Micro-Computed Tomography (CT) will be used to non-destructively image 3D root architecture and microscale soil characteristics over time.

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