Crop root architectural traits are a key but yet underutilized target for pre-breeders. Incorporation of root architecture traits into new cultivars requires phenotyping. It is beneficial to rapidly and directly phenotype root architectures in the field, avoiding laboratory studies that may not translate. A combination of soil coring and core-break counting can directly phenotype root architecture traits of depth and distribution in the field through to grain setting, but labour costs are high with this method if cores are analyzed manually (and particularly if roots are rinsed). Within the EU BarleyMicroBreed project (https://barleymicrobreed.eu/) we will develop a portable fluorescence imaging system to automate root counting in barley phenotyping - analyzing soil cores of 600 varieties with image analysis software directly in the field to determine the root depth distributing. Field validation is done by BOKU Vienna staff.
Earlier approaches on wheat showed that the correlation of the measurements with the root length density of (washed) soil cores exceeded those achieved by human operators (Wasson et al. 2016) and can achieve a higher throuput and thus efficiency.
As the phenotyping platform has great possibilities to help capturing more information about architectural root traits in the field, we are looking forward to test the currently constructed prototype soon under field conditions at the BOKU barley trials and develope it into a versatile, relied-on tool for the global root phenotyping community. Stay tuned!