Plant and Soil

, Volume 425, Issue 1–2, pp 457–477 | Cite as

Measuring root system traits of wheat in 2D images to parameterize 3D root architecture models

  • Magdalena Landl
  • Andrea Schnepf
  • Jan Vanderborght
  • A. Glyn Bengough
  • Sara L. Bauke
  • Guillaume Lobet
  • Roland Bol
  • Harry Vereecken
Regular Article


Background and aims

The main difficulty in the use of 3D root architecture models is correct parameterization. We evaluated distributions of the root traits inter-branch distance, branching angle and axial root trajectories from contrasting experimental systems to improve model parameterization.


We analyzed 2D root images of different wheat varieties (Triticum aestivum) from three different sources using automatic root tracking. Model input parameters and common parameter patterns were identified from extracted root system coordinates. Simulation studies were used to (1) link observed axial root trajectories with model input parameters (2) evaluate errors due to the 2D (versus 3D) nature of image sources and (3) investigate the effect of model parameter distributions on root foraging performance.


Distributions of inter-branch distances were approximated with lognormal functions. Branching angles showed mean values <90°. Gravitropism and tortuosity parameters were quantified in relation to downwards reorientation and segment angles of root axes. Root system projection in 2D increased the variance of branching angles. Root foraging performance was very sensitive to parameter distribution and variance.


2D image analysis can systematically and efficiently analyze root system architectures and parameterize 3D root architecture models. Effects of root system projection (2D from 3D) and deflection (at rhizotron face) on size and distribution of particular parameters are potentially significant.


Axial root trajectories Branching angle Foraging performance Inter-branch distance Model parameterization Root system architecture 



Root segment angle to the horizontal


Reorientation angle of an individual root segment


Diffusion coefficient of a solute in soil


Inter-branch distance


Inter-root competition


Mean value


Standard deviation of the random deflection angle (tortuosity)


Sensitivity to gravitropism


Standard deviation


Branching angle in the vertical plane



Funding by German Research Foundation within the Research Unit DFG PAK 888 is gratefully acknowledged. The James Hutton Institute receives funding from the Scottish Government. We also thank Klaas Metselaar from the Department of Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University, Netherlands, for providing high-resolution scans of wheat root images from the Root Atlas and the authors of Atkinson et al. (2017) for publicly sharing their image datasets.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH, Agrosphere (IBG-3)JuelichGermany
  2. 2.The James Hutton InstituteDundeeUK
  3. 3.School of Science and EngineeringUniversity of DundeeDundeeUK
  4. 4.Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation (INRES) – Soil Science and Soil EcologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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