The production of crops capable of efficient nutrient use is essential for addressing the problem of global food security. The ability of a plant's root system to interact with the soil micro-environment determines how effectively it can extract water and nutrients. In order to assess this ability and develop the fast and cost effective phenotyping techniques which are needed to establish efficient root systems, in situ imaging in soil is required. To date this has not been possible due to the high density of scatterers and absorbers in soil or because other growth substrates do not sufficiently model the heterogeneity of a soil's microenvironment. We present here a new form of light sheet imaging with novel transparent soil containing refractive index matched particles. This imaging method does not rely on fluorescence, but relies solely on scattering from root material. We term this form of imaging Light Sheet Tomography (LST). We have tested LST on a range of materials and plant roots in transparent soil and gel. Due to the low density of root structures, i.e. relatively large spaces between adjacent roots, long-term monitoring of lettuce root development in situ with subsequent quantitative analysis was achieved.
Yang, Z., Downie, H., Rozbicki, E., Dupuy, L. X., & MacDonald, M. P. (2013). Light sheet tomography (LST) for in situ imaging of plant roots. Optics Express, 21(14), 16239-16247. https://doi.org/10.1364/OE.21.016239