Root and mycorrhiza development are key for plant performance and affect many ecosystem and biogeochemical processes. However, observing this hidden half of ecosystems is not easy, being covered in the soil. Minirhizotron systems are a qualitative and quantitative observation tool to study root and hyphal growth, longevity and distribution in situ or mesocosms experiments. The MR system is based on transparent glass or plastic tubes (MR-T) inserted tightly into manually or mechanically established holes. Subsequently an imaging device is inserted into the tube in order to record images of roots and rhizosphere seen through the MR tube walls. The images are then recorded and processed by a control unit (handheld or laptop). Capture Full-HD images of living roots and mycorrhizal hyphae in soil to monitor growth and behavior over multiple seasons with the VSI Minirhizotron systems!
The VSI minirhizotron camera systems are composed of modular units and specific features can be combined to highly customized devices -fitting both scientific needs and funding situation. Our minirhizotron cameras are available either as fixed- or variable-diameter systems for MR tubes of 5-10 cm inner diameter – allowing for continued use of available tubes and to easily upgrade older imaging systems. The imaging process can be completely automatized including tube recognition and imaging of pre-set or previously imaged locations, but systems with manual indexing ("Smucker handle") are also available. In any case, precision in terms of imaging quality and repeatability of imaging locations and ease-of-use is key. All imaging systems allow to capture Full HD images of selected areas (360°), easily allowing to adapt the size of the monitored MR-T surface to research needs and resources for image analyses. The minor image distortion of original images, caused by the curved tube surface, can be (automatically) corrected by the included software. Image size (standard: 20 x 20 mm) can be adjusted, allowing to align root length observations from MR-Ts e.g. to biomass sampling depth (e.g. 0-10 cm, 10-20 cm, ...) without resizing images. Imaging a depth gradient at a time, on predefined sides of the MR-T, is recommended when using angled MR-Ts -allowing for more accurate soil depth determination then in other systems own the market. The minirhizotron imaging systems are either programmed and operated by a handheld or a laptop; both wireless (approx. 10 m radius for remote-control-release) and cable-bound options are available. Devices are powered by Li-ion batteries (>10 h operation time @ 10-30°C) or power line (110-230V). Image naming follows the ICAP-scheme (ExpName_T001_L001_Date_Time_001_Op.jpg) to be compatible with analyses software world-wide (see below). In addition, a section number can be given instead of the operator name to distinguish multiple "imaging transects" (depth in vertical MR-Ts, angle in horizontal MR-Ts) within the same MR tube.
Ready-for-use minirhizotron sets: incl. imaging device of choice incl. all accessories (charger, cables, etc); handheld incl. software; MR tubes, 50 or 100 cm (incl. aboveground light protection and endcaps); matching soil coring set to install tubes; manual (English)
Visit the great Plant Image Analysis webpage of G. Lobet for a comprehensive list of image analysis software tools.
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