Gel observation chamber for rapid screening of root traits in cereal seedlings
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A simple gel chamber is described for measurement of seedling root traits. Seedlings are located between two closely spaced flat layers of transparent gel, on plastic plates (at least one of which is transparent). Root system traits can be non-destructively recorded in two-dimensions using a flatbed scanner. Easily measured rooting traits include root length, elongation rate, longest root, deepest root, seminal root number, and angular spread of roots. Examples of wild, landrace, and cultivated barleys were grown in the gel chambers, between gel layers or in loosely packed soil. Root growth on the gel plates was similar to that in loose soil, with the cultivated barley having the most seminal axes (about 7), and widest angular spread of roots (about 120 °), and wild barley the fewest seminal axes (about 3), and narrowest angular spread of roots (about 40 °). Landrace barley lines tested were intermediate between wild barley and modern cultivars. Separate experiments were performed to study the effect of grain mass and grain size on these rooting traits. These experiments included parents of genetic mapping populations. Seminal root number was most strongly dependent on grain mass in the modern cultivar Chime. Grain size significantly influenced root number in the modern cultivar Derkado, the breeding line B83-12/21/5, and a selection from a landrace Tadmor, suggesting that grain size should be controlled in any screening exercise.
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