Plant-Soil-Environment Interactions

Research focuses on exploring root-soil scale interactions to uncover novel biological mechanisms and improve understanding of field scale processes

Our research in this area utilizes multi-scale image analysis to reveal the biological and physical mechanisms underpinning root-soil interactions. A particular strength is the use of X-ray Computed Tomography to analyse root-soil interactions from the rhizosphere scale to the whole root systems architecture scale. This work is undertaken in the new Hounsfield Facility for Rhizosphere Research that contains three X-ray CT scanners that can explore a wide range of spatial resolutions (µm to cm). Our interdisciplinary team comprises soil scientists, chemists and physicists who interact closely with environmental modellers, climate change scientists, image analysts, mathematicians and plant biologists.


Examples of CPIB’s work in this area:

  • Uncovering novel root adaptive responses to soil-water interactions such as hydropatterning which suppresses lateral root formation on the dry side of roots
  • Measurement of microscopic root-soil contact to elucidate the role of microorganisms in the development of the rhizosphere
  • Imaging of the soil porous architecture under varying conditions of saturation to enable high precision in calculations of water uptake efficiency
  • Identification of novel root architectural traits that underpin yield, nitrate and water uptake efficiency in wheat elite and alien introgression lines using our micro X-ray CT phenotyping platform
  • 3-D micro-topographic assessment of the extreme soil surface and its impact on soil hydraulic behaviour
  • Quantification of 3-D leaf architecture for improved assessment on photosynthetic capability

EU-based scientists may apply to use these facilities via the EPPN Transnational Access programme

The Hounsfield Facility bridges the gap between lab and field, allowing field-grown plants to be brought into a more controlled environment and analysed with minimum disturbance.

For more information contact: Sacha Mooney (Soil) or Malcolm Bennett (Plant) or Craig Sturrock (X-ray CT).