An analysis of soil coring strategies to estimate root depth in maize (Zea mays) and common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)


James D. Burridge, Christopher K. Black, Eric A. Nord, Johannes A. Postma, Jagdeep S. Sidhu, Larry M. York, Jonathan P. Lynch


Plant Phenomics, in press

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 A soil coring protocol was developed to co-optimize estimation of root length distribution (RLD) by depth and detection of functionally important variation in root system architecture (RSA) of maize and bean. The functional-structural model OpenSimRoot was used to perform in-silico soil coring at six locations on three different maize and bean RSA phenotypes. Results were compared to two seasons of field soil coring and one trench. Two one-sided T test (TOST) analysis of in-silico data suggests a between-row location 5 cm from plant base (location 3), best estimates whole-plot RLD/D of deep, intermediate and shallow RSA phenotypes, for both maize and bean. Quadratic discriminate analysis indicates location 3 has ~70% categorization accuracy for bean, while an in-row location next to the plant base (location 6) has ~85% categorization accuracy in maize. Analysis of field data suggests the more representative sampling locations varies by year and species. In-silico and field studies suggest location 3 is most robust, although variation is significant among seasons, among replications within a field season and among field soil coring, trench and simulations. We propose that characterization of the RLD profile as a dynamic rhizocanopy effectively describes how the RLD profile arises from interactions among an individual plant, its neighbors, and the pedosphere.