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  • Publication
    Investigating the role of below ground biotic interactions with root system architecture in winter wheat
    (University College Dublin. School of Agriculture and Food Science, 2022)
    Global demand for cereals is growing and will continue to do so with increasing uncertainties around global food supply coupled with a population increase. Consequently, we must optimise crop production systems to achieve higher yields as food security concerns grow. More recently, the plant root system architecture has come to prominence as an area which may be exploited to enhance resistance to different plant stresses such as drought and nutrient poor soils to help improved yields. Difficulty in understanding the role of root system architecture (RSA) is inherent due to the opaque and complex nature of soils. Furthermore, soil is a living thing capable of supporting life to macro, micro fauna and plants. A multiplicity of interactions occur all of which are impacted by the environment. In turn, these biotic and abiotic factors influence plant growth, some affecting the root system architecture more acutely than others. Future crop husbandry practices will implement techniques which are more in tune with the environment whilst aiming to achieve higher yields. This must be done in a manner which is both economically and environmentally sustainable. Increasing our understanding of a plant root system architecture is considered an area of crop production where knowledge gains can be made with strong potential for field scale implementation. A plant’s root system is important not least because of its role in nutrient scavenging and uptake, water uptake and anchorage. With advancements in the techniques used to examine root system architecture, namely X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) there is now a real possibility of cereal cultivars being bred specifically because of their root traits. The primary aim of this study was to examine the effect of accepted and novel biostimulants on the root system architecture of adult and seedling wheat plants (Triticum aestivum L.). To do this both 2D (WinRHIZO™) and 3D (X-ray CT) image analysis technologies were used. The opening experimental chapter evaluated the root system architecture of modern wheat, barley and oat seedlings. Root phenotypic response was compared at 14 days of eight wheat cultivars. The cultivar “Gravity” had the highest length and surface area although there were no significant differences compared to any other cultivar (P > 0.05). For mean root diameter, cv. “Skyfall” had a significantly higher mean root diameter than that of cv. “Elation”. No other significant differences were recorded in relation to root or shoot dry weight, root:shoot ratio or root angle due to inherently high variation across individual plants (P > 0.05). Comparison of wheat, barley and oat cultivars showed both wheat and barley to have more rapid root growth at 14 days after transplant. Despite this, no significant differences were noted when all cultivars were compared (P > 0.05). When combined, wheat had significantly higher root volume compared to oats (P < 0.05). No significant difference was seen in root dry weight (P > 0.05). The effect of species differences were not strictly obvious at this early stage of growth which may be a consequence of being grown under ambient conditions in a controlled environment.