Phenotyping root systems in a set of japonica rice accessions: can structural traits predict the response to drought?
AbstractBackground: The root system plays a major role in plant growth and development and root system architecture is reported to be the main trait related to plant adaptation to drought. However, phenotyping root systems in situ is not suited to high-throughput methods, leading to the development of non-destructive methods for evaluations in more or less controlled root environments. This study used a root phenotyping platform with a panel of 20 japonica rice accessions in order to: (i) assess their genetic diversity for a set of structural and morphological root traits and classify the different types; (ii) analyze the plastic response of their root system to a water deficit at reproductive phase and (iii) explore the ability of the platform for high-throughput phenotyping of root structure and morphology. Results: High variability for the studied root traits was found in the reduced set of accessions. Using eight selected traits under irrigated conditions, five root clusters were found that differed in root thickness, branching index and the pattern of fine and thick root distribution along the profile. When water deficit occurred at reproductive phase, some accessions significantly reduced root growth compared to the irrigated treatment, while others stimulated it. It was found that root cluster, as defined under irrigated conditions, could not predict the plastic response of roots under drought. Conclusions: This study revealed the possibility of reconstructing the structure of root systems from scanned images. It was thus possible to significantly class root systems according to simple structural traits, opening up the way for using such a platform for medium to high-throughput phenotyping. The study also highlighted the uncoupling between root structures under non-limiting water conditions and their response to drought