Baskin uses new software tool to investigate root growth

Kannappan Palaniappan, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Missouri, has developed a software tool that could help UMass Biology professor Tobias Baskin give farmers greener thumbs. The tool could help enable farmers develop crop cultivars that are drought resistant, ensuring roots can reach falling water tables, adapt to warmer temperatures and be more resilient to environmental changes.

The video processing tool uses high resolution microscopy imaging to quantify plant root growth at sub-micron scale precision. The biomedical image analysis software is almost fully automated and gives researchers a peek inside the complex processes happening within various zones of a root.

Baskin is using the software to study the impact of temperature on cells within specific zones. The team has been collaborating for more than a decade and recently received a new grant from the National Science Foundation for their work on dynamic zonation in the plant root.

The research could help usher in a second green revolution, allowing farmers and growers to adjust root systems to increase plant yield. The first green revolution, which happened in the 1960s and 1970s, involved selecting for specific properties of plant shoots, specifically breeding lines that grew shorter but stronger without lodging, preventing the large crop losses from fast growing lines that fell over before harvest.

The attached photo is a picture of roots at various temperatures.