A soil-free root observation system for the study of root-microorganism interactions in maize

Planchamp, Chantal ; Balmer, Dirk ; Hund, Andreas ; Mauch-Mani, Brigitte

In: Plant and Soil, 2013, vol. 367, no. 1-2, p. 605-614

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    Background and aims: The root surface of a plant usually exceeds the leaf area and is constantly exposed to a variety of soil-borne microorganisms. Root pathogens and pests, as well as belowground interactions with beneficial microbes, can significantly influence a plants' performance. Unfortunately, the analysis of these interactions is often limited because of the arduous task of accessing roots growing in soil. Here, we present a soil-free root observation system (SF-ROBS) designed to grow maize (Zea mays) plants and to study root interactions with either beneficial or pathogenic microbes. Methods: The SF-ROBS consists of pouches lined with wet filter paper supplying nutrient solution. Results: The aspect of maize grown in the SF-ROBS was similar to soil-grown maize; the plant growth was similar for the shoot but different for the roots (biomass and length increased in the SF-ROBS). SF-ROBS-grown roots were successfully inoculated with the hemi-biotrophic maize fungal pathogen Colletotrichum graminicola and the beneficial rhizobacteria Pseudomonas putida KT2440. Thus, the SF-ROBS is a system suitable to study two major belowground phenomena, namely root fungal defense reactions and interactions of roots with beneficial soil-borne bacteria. Conclusions: This system contributes to a better understanding of belowground plant microbe interactions in maize and most likely also in other crops