In situ laser manipulation of root tissues in transparent soil

Sisi Ge, Lionel Xavier Dupuy (Lead / Corresponding author), Michael P. MacDonald (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
83 Downloads (Pure)


Aims: Laser micromanipulation such as dissection or optical trapping enables remote physical modification of the activity of tissues, cells and organelles. To date, applications of laser manipulation to plant roots grown in soil have been limited. Here, we show laser manipulation can be applied in situ when plant roots are grown in transparent soil.

Methods: We have developed a Q-switched laser manipulation and imaging instrument to perform controlled dissection of roots and to study light-induced root growth responses. We performed a detailed characterisation of the properties of the cutting beams through the soil, studying dissection and optical ablation. Furthermore, we also studied the use of low light doses to control the root elongation rate of lettuce seedlings (Lactuca sativa) in air, agar, gel and transparent soil.

Results: We show that whilst soil inhomogeneities affect the thickness and circularity of the beam, those distortions are not inherently limiting. The ability to induce changes in root elongation or complete dissection of microscopic regions of the root is robust to substrate heterogeneity and microscopy set up and is maintained following the limited distortions induced by the transparent soil environment.

Conclusions: Our findings show that controlled in situ laser dissection of root tissues is possible with a simple and low-cost optical set-up. We also show that, in the absence of dissection, a reduced laser light power density can provide reversible control of root growth, achieving a precise “point and shoot” method for root manipulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-489
Number of pages15
JournalPlant and Soil
Early online date12 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Imaging
  • Lactuca sativa
  • Laser dissection
  • Root
  • Transparent soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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