School of BioSciences - Research Publications

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    A portable fluorescence spectroscopy imaging system for automated root phenotyping in soil cores in the field
    Wasson, A ; Bischof, L ; Zwart, A ; Watt, M (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2016-02-01)
    Root architecture traits are a target for pre-breeders. Incorporation of root architecture traits into new cultivars requires phenotyping. It is attractive to rapidly and directly phenotype root architecture in the field, avoiding laboratory studies that may not translate to the field. A combination of soil coring with a hydraulic push press and manual core-break counting can directly phenotype root architecture traits of depth and distribution in the field through to grain development, but large teams of people are required and labour costs are high with this method. We developed a portable fluorescence imaging system (BlueBox) to automate root counting in soil cores with image analysis software directly in the field. The lighting system was optimized to produce high-contrast images of roots emerging from soil cores. The correlation of the measurements with the root length density of the soil cores exceeded the correlation achieved by human operator measurements (R (2)=0.68 versus 0.57, respectively). A BlueBox-equipped team processed 4.3 cores/hour/person, compared with 3.7 cores/hour/person for the manual method. The portable, automated in-field root architecture phenotyping system was 16% more labour efficient, 19% more accurate, and 12% cheaper than manual conventional coring, and presents an opportunity to directly phenotype root architecture in the field as part of pre-breeding programs. The platform has wide possibilities to capture more information about root health and other root traits in the field.
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    Simultaneous effects of leaf irradiance and soil moisture on growth and root system architecture of novel wheat genotypes: implications for phenotyping
    Nagel, KA ; Bonnett, D ; Furbank, R ; Walter, A ; Schurr, U ; Watt, M (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2015-09-01)
    Plants in the field are exposed to varying light and moisture. Agronomic improvement requires knowledge of whole-plant phenotypes expressed in response to simultaneous variation in these essential resources. Most phenotypes, however, have been described from experiments where resources are varied singularly. To test the importance of varying shoot and root resources for phenotyping studies, sister pre-breeding lines of wheat were phenotyped in response to independent or simultaneous exposure to two light levels and soil moisture profiles. The distribution and architecture of the root systems depended strongly on the moisture of the deeper soil layer. For one genotype, roots, specifically lateral roots, were stimulated to grow into moist soil when the upper zone was well-watered and were inhibited by drier deep zones. In contrast, the other genotype showed much less plasticity and responsiveness to upper moist soil, but maintained deeper penetration of roots into the dry layer. The sum of shoot and root responses was greater when treated simultaneously to low light and low soil water, compared to each treatment alone, suggesting the value of whole plant phenotyping in response to multiple conditions for agronomic improvement. The results suggest that canopy management for increased irradiation of leaves would encourage root growth into deeper drier soil, and that genetic variation within closely related breeding lines may exist to favour surface root growth in response to irrigation or in-season rainfall.
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    Soil coring at multiple field environments can directly quantify variation in deep root traits to select wheat genotypes for breeding
    Wasson, AP ; Rebetzke, GJ ; Kirkegaard, JA ; Christopher, J ; Richards, RA ; Watt, M (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2014-11-01)
    We aim to incorporate deep root traits into future wheat varieties to increase access to stored soil water during grain development, which is twice as valuable for yield as water captured at younger stages. Most root phenotyping efforts have been indirect studies in the laboratory, at young plant stages, or using indirect shoot measures. Here, soil coring to 2 m depth was used across three field environments to directly phenotype deep root traits on grain development (depth, descent rate, density, length, and distribution). Shoot phenotypes at coring included canopy temperature depression, chlorophyll reflectance, and green leaf scoring, with developmental stage, biomass, and yield. Current varieties, and genotypes with breeding histories and plant architectures expected to promote deep roots, were used to maximize identification of variation due to genetics. Variation was observed for deep root traits (e.g. 111.4-178.5cm (60%) for depth; 0.09-0.22cm/°C day (144%) for descent rate) using soil coring in the field environments. There was significant variation for root traits between sites, and variation in the relative performance of genotypes between sites. However, genotypes were identified that performed consistently well or poorly at both sites. Furthermore, high-performing genotypes were statistically superior in root traits than low-performing genotypes or commercial varieties. There was a weak but significant negative correlation between green leaf score (-0.5), CTD (0.45), and rooting depth and a positive correlation for chlorophyll reflectance (0.32). Shoot phenotypes did not predict other root traits. This study suggests that field coring can directly identify variation in deep root traits to speed up selection of genotypes for breeding programmes.
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    Precision Medicine: Dawn of Supercomputing in ‘omics Research
    Reumann, M ; Holt, KE ; Inouye, M ; Stinear, T ; Goudey, B ; Abraham, G ; WANG, Q ; Shi, F ; Kowalczyk, A ; Pearce, A ; Isaac, A ; Pope, BJ ; Butzkueven, H ; Wagner, J ; Moore, S ; Downton, M ; Church, PC ; Turner, SJ ; Field, J ; Southey, M ; Bowtell, D ; Schmidt, D ; Makalic, E ; Zobel, J ; Hopper, J ; Petrovski, S ; O'Brien, T (eResearch Australasia, 2011)