Available tools to study rhizosphere characteristics at a sub-mm spatial resolution suffer from a number of shortfalls, including geometrically and physiologically ill-defined root layers containing soil or other growth medium. Such designs may result in over- or underestimation of root-induced changes in the rhizosphere. We present a novel rhizobox design that overcomes these shortfalls. Plants are pre-grown in a soil–root compartment with an opening slit at the bottom. As plants reach the targeted physiological stage, this compartment is transferred on top of a rhizosphere soil compartment attached to a vertical root-only compartment. The latter is made up of a membrane (pore size 7 μm to restrict root hair growth into the rhizosphere compartment or 30 μm to restrict only root growth) and a transparent acrylic window which is gently pressed against the membrane and rhizosphere soil compartment using an adjustable screw. This design allows roots to penetrate from the upper soil–root compartment through the slit into the root-only compartment. Root growth and distribution can be monitored through the acrylic window using digital camera equipment. Upon termination of the experiment, the rhizosphere compartment is removed and frozen prior to separation of sub-mm soil layers using microtome techniques. In a test experiment, canola (Brassica napus L. cv. Sprinter) developed a fairly dense root monolayer within 8 days. Using measurement of soil characteristics at 0.5–1-mm increments across the rhizosphere we demonstrate that the proposed rhizobox design is yielding reproducible data. Due to exudation of LMWOC, we found a statistically significant increase of DOC towards the root plane, whereas more stable soil characteristics were not affected by root activity. Limitations and further extensions of this rhizobox design, including the use of micro suction cups and microsensors for pH and redox potential to measure spatial and temporal changes in a non-destructive manner are discussed along with potential applications such as validation of rhizosphere models.
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Wenzel, W.W., Wieshammer, G., Fitz, W.J. et al. Novel rhizobox design to assess rhizosphere characteristics at high spatial resolution. Plant and Soil 237, 37–45 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013395122730
- root exudates
- soil–root interface