The root systems of plants play an important part in the carbon allocation and for the uptake of nutrients and water. However, research on plant root systems under field conditions is difficult, because the soil limits the direct observation. The minirhizotron method, in contrast to destructive methods, permits the measurement of the fine root production, mortality and turn-over. However, the technique needs an improved system for image acquisition to optimise the data analysis. Therefore, we developed a new computer-controlled minirhizotron system with automatic image acquisition.
The system is based on a CCD camera (colour or black and white finger camera) mounted to a robotic system and is connected to a portable computer through a USB-video-controller. Positioning of the CCD-camera is computer-controlled by two stepper motors and allows a manually or fully automatic scanning mode. For the root observation glass tubes with a diameter of 30 mm and a length of 70 cm – 160 cm are used. The system can provide qualitative information on root color, branching and the development of mycorrhiza.
The development of the minirhizotron system was funded by Innovatives Brandenburg: