Time-Lapse Imaging Captures Twisted Root Mechanics

10/13/2012 7:00 AM

ITHACA, N.Y. — Using an advanced 3-D time-lapse imaging system, a group of physicists and plant biologists from Cornell University and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research have discovered how certain plant roots exhibit powerful mechanical abilities while navigating their environment.

The research, published in the online Early Edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could eventually assist in breeding crop plants optimized for growth in areas where overfarming has led to difficult soil conditions.

The researchers grew Medicago truncatula plants in a transparent gel consisting of two layers — a soft top layer and a stiff lower layer. The roots grew straight down until reaching the lower layer, where they began to twist and buckle into springlike shapes.

Source: Cornell University.

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