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user picture Paul Carter

Are you intrigued by roots?

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How much more could we understand about crop and soil management if we could observe roots as easily and closely as we do the above ground part of our crop plants?

This video shares some insights on how roots of different plants interact with each other...based on greenhouse studies and mathematical models. But is this response the same in the field? For different planting patterns?



  • Crop Management
  • Sensors

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My M.S. thesis was on evaluating root growth differences in alfalfa varieties. I learned that root research is hard slow work. Spent 5-6 days a week for over a month doing nothing but sorting alfalfa roots from soil from plants that had been grown in greenhouse pots in 1 foot increments to a 5 foot depth. Then, to determine root length had to carefully lay the roots out with tweezers on a grid and take and develop many photographs.

Many decades later, Bayer has a competition underway that offers grants to develop field root sensing technologies. One of the areas requested is a root scanner for quantifying root mass and structure.

Any ideas? Here you go. This link on a Bayer website describes the Root Scanner Challenge

 Bayer – Root Scanner Challenge

  • Collect and display data related to the root mass, root depth, and diameter of the root system in the field.
  • Cause no damage to the plants and minimize the disturbance of the soil.
  • Be as accurate as possible: the measured parameters will be compared with the results of established root phenotyping methods.
  • Be fit for field use. The easier it is to use the solution in the field, the better.
  • Be available for testing at finalist event.


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Roots are EVERYTHING! If you are not digging and evaluating roots,...........Its like not checking the engine on your car, truck, or tractor. everything above ground is merely the result of whats happening below ground. Roots tell the story!!!!

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