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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 79 No. 6, p. 957-965
     
    Received: Oct 6, 1986


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doi:10.2134/agronj1987.00021962007900060003x

In Situ Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Roots: Influence of Soil Type, Ferromagnetic Particle Content, and Soil Water1

  1. Hugo H. Rogers and
  2. Paul A. Bottomley2

Abstract

Abstract

The paucity of root information combined with the difficulty in obtaining it make new approaches imperative. The observation of roots is essential to the understanding of plant growth and productivity. Proton (1H) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging offers a noninvasive method for the study of both root morphology and function in situ. Herein, NMR imaging of plant root systems was evaluated for southeastern US. agricultural soil series from 30 different sites, and eight common artificial soil substrates, as a function of soil type, ferromagnetic particle content, and soil water, using a 1.5-tesla medical research NMR imaging system and Vicia fabia L. seedlings grown in the soils. Roots of about 1 mm in diameter and 1-mm-diam capillaries of water were undetectable by NMR imaging and conventional NMR in soils with ferromagnetic particle contents of greater than about 4% by weight. Below 4%, ferromagnetic particle content did not correlate well with NMR image quality, but the presence or absence of NMR signals from water-containing capillaries embedded in soil samples in a conventional NMR experiment reliably reflected soil suitability for NMR root imaging. Images of seedlings in four of the artificial soils (perlite, Ottawa sand, peatlite, and peat) and seven of the native soils (Wynnville fine sandy loam, Lucy loamy sand, Dothan sandy loam, Lakeland sand, Kinston loamy sand, Blanton loamy sand, and Eustis fine sandy loam) showed excellent spatial resolution and accurate reproduction of the root systems when they were extricated from the soils. However, the results from three of the artificial soils (perlite, Ottawa sand, and peat) were significantly compromised by background NMR signals that derived from soil water. In the seven native soils, soil water to near saturation was rendered essentially invisible by the NMR imaging sequence employed, thereby demonstrating excellent root-to-soil image contrast. Several root pathologies apparent in the images were identified. The results reveal that 1H NMR imaging is a practical tool for the nondestructive, noninvasive investigation of plant root systems in many natural agricultural soils at virtually any stage of a water stress cycle.

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