Effects of X-Ray Dose On Rhizosphere Studies Using X-Ray Computed Tomography

Susan Zappala, Jonathan R Helliwell, Saoirse R Tracy, Stefan Mairhofer, Craig J Sturrock, Tony Pridmore, Malcolm Bennett & Sacha J Mooney

X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) is a non-destructive imaging technique originally designed for diagnostic medicine, which was adopted for rhizosphere and soil science applications in the early 1980s. X-ray CT enables researchers to simultaneously visualise and quantify the heterogeneous soil matrix of mineral grains, organic matter, air-filled pores and water-filled pores. Additionally, X-ray CT allows visualisation of plant roots in situ without the need for traditional invasive methods such as root washing. However, one routinely unreported aspect of X-ray CT is the potential effect of X-ray dose on the soil-borne microorganisms and plants in rhizosphere investigations. Here we aimed to i) highlight the need for more consistent reporting of X-ray CT parameters for dose to sample, ii) to provide an overview of previously reported impacts of X-rays on soil microorganisms and plant roots and iii) present new data investigating the response of plant roots and microbial communities to X-ray exposure. Fewer than 5% of the 126 publications included in the literature review contained sufficient information to calculate dose and only 2.4% of the publications explicitly state an estimate of dose received by each sample. We conducted a study involving rice roots growing in soil, observing no significant difference between the numbers of root tips, root volume and total root length in scanned versus unscanned samples. In parallel, a soil microbe experiment scanning samples over a total of 24 weeks observed no significant difference between the scanned and unscanned microbial biomass values. We conclude from the literature review and our own experiments that X-ray CT does not impact plant growth or soil microbial populations when employing a low level of dose (

PloS one 8 (6), e67250

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