Big in Japan: Rice and sorghum roots in the land of the rising sun

Posted: November 15, 2012

Roots lab students Patompong ‘Khwan’ Saengwilai and Phanchita ‘Nan’ Vejchasarn were at the Japan International Research Center For Agricultural Sciences (JIRGAS) in Tsukuba, Japan from September 3 through September 23, 2012 for rice and sorghum root research. They were accompanied by Edward Makoto Johns, a volunteer Penn State research technician.

Tsukuba is situated near the capital city of Japan, Tokyo, and is known as “science city.” It is the home of more than 60 national research institutes, which makes it one of the world’s largest coordinated efforts to accelerate the rate of and improve the quality of scientific discovery. Matthias Wissuwa’s research group invited Khwan, Nan, and Edward to study root traits of sorghum and rice. 

Matthias khwan nan

Khwan, Dr. Matthias Wissuwa, and Nan (left to right) utilizing public transportation.

Khwan evaluated the potential of nodal root angle as a trait for improving phosphorus (P) acquisition in sorghum. Since phosphorus is more available in the topsoil, he hypothesized that sorghum with shallow root angles would acquire more P and have better growth in low P soils. In this study, he used the shovelomics method to evaluate root traits such as root angle, branching, and nodal root number of 40 sorghum varieties from West Africa and the USA under high and low P conditions and evaluated the growth of varieties contrasting in nodal root angles in low P soils. 

 khwan in japan shovelomics

Khwan evaluating sorghum roots using shovelomics.

Nan’s research topic is “Genome-wide association analysis of root architectural traits as related to phosphorus efficiency in rice (Oryza sativa).”  The objectives of the research were to study phosphorus effects on root architectural traits and to characterize the genetic control of root architectural traits in rice using Association Analysis. She has used shovelomics to examine genotypic variation in rice root architectural traits, especially nodal root angle, for low-phosphorus tolerance among 196 accessions selected from a Oryza sativa diversity panel in field trials under low and high phosphorus conditions.  The expected outcome of the research includes the identification of molecular markers associated with genes conferring superior root architecture, which will enhance genetic improvement in rice phosphorus efficiency.

 research group in japan

Nan (front center) with members of Dr. Wissuwa's research group.

 Edward shovelomics

Edward helping with measuring shoot parameters.


--Article written by Khwan and Nan. Posted by Larry York