Roots-eye view: Using microdialysis and microCT to non-destructively map root nutrient depletion and accumulation zones

Plant roots constantly engage in nutrient and water uptake for crop productivity. Increasing the nutrient uptake efficiency of roots will promote sustainable agriculture by decreasing the need for fertilizer applications. To achieve this task, we need to understand the physiology of intact roots in their natural soil environment. Brackin et al. examined root nutrient foraging ability by using microdialysis to measure ion concentrations and microCT to image roots. By using probes placed adjacent to the roots in a non destructive manner, the authors were able to measure nitrate and ammonium levels in the rhizosphere in the vicinity of roots. The authors observed that close to roots there is an accumulation of nitrate but a depletion of ammonium, as a consequences of the difference in mobility of the two ions in the soil. This combination of complementary techniques could be helpful in advancing our understanding of the allocation of nutrients in the roots across varied environmental conditions, and allow an efficient means of selecting crops with increased nutrient efficiency to promote sustainable agriculture. (Summary by Amey Redkar) Plant Cell Environ. 10.1111/pce.13072/full