Core-labelling technique (CLT): a novel combination of the ingrowth-core method and tracer technique for deep root study

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Background: Ingrowth-core method is a useful tool to determine fine root growth of standing crops by inserting root-free soil in mesh-bags for certain period of time. However, the root density observed by the method does not directly explain the nutrient uptake potential of crop plants as it varies over soil depth and incubation time. We have inserted an access-tube up to 4.2 m of soil depth with openings directly under crop plants, through which ingrowth-cores containing labelled soil with nutrient tracers were installed, called core-labelling technique (CLT). The main advantage of CLT would be its capacity to determine both root density and root activity from the same crop plants in deep soil layers. We tested the validity of the new method using a model crop species, alfalfa (Medicago sativa) against three depth-levels (1.0, 2.5 and 4.2 m), three sampling spots with varying distance (0-0.36, 0.36-0.72 and > 5 m from core-labelled spot), two sampling times (week 4 and 8), and two plant parts (young and old leaves) under two field experiments (spring and autumn).

Results: Using CLT, we were able to observe both deep root growth and root activity up to 4.2 m of soil depth. Tracer concentrations revealed that there was no sign of tracer-leakage to adjacent areas which is considered to be advantageous over the generic tracer-injection. Root activity increased with longer incubation period and tracer concentrations were higher in younger leaves only for anionic tracers.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that CLT can lead to a comprehensive deep root study aiming at measuring both deep root growth and root activity from the same plants. Once produced and installed, the access-tubes and ingrowth-cores can be used for a long-term period, which reduces the workload and cost for the research. Therefore, CLT has a wide range of potential applications to the research involving roots in deep soil layers, which requires further confirmation by future experiments.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPlant Methods
Volume16
Pages (from-to)84
ISSN1746-4811
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020.

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