China: A Virtual Centre for Monitoring the Rhizosphere

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Sustainable Agriculture Sciences-H


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Description Year 1
Plant roots release various organic materials that may change soil structure and modify heat and mass transfer processes. Paired soil samples were mixed with distilled water and synthetic root exudates (Paterson et al., 2007) at a bulk density of 1.61 g cm-3 and a water content of 0.13 g g-1, packed into cylinders, and then incubated for 7 days at 17±1°C and a relative humidity of 90%. The samples then went on a drying process, and the changes of soil penetrometer resistance and thermal conductivity were monitored continuously. No difference in soil bulk density was observed between the samples treated with water and root exudates. However, the soil samples with root exudates had significantly greater penetrometer resistance (10-900 kPa) and thermal conductivity (about 0.1-0.6 W m-1 K-1) than the water-only samples. The root exudates might have acted as binding agents, which increased soil strength and heat conduction by enhancing the contacts among soil particles.
Year 2
We are collaborating on a review paper on "sensing the rhizosphere" which we expect to be submitted this year. Rothamsted has hosted one short visit by Prof Gao to set up a system to measure soil density. In addition we have published an opinion paper in "Trends in Plant Science", which considers the relation ship between roots and soil structure.

Xin Wang from CAU is the middle of a 12 month visit to Rothamsted to measure the effects of rhizosphere conditions on root and shoot growth. Xin has identified an interaction between phosphorus availability and root impendence; both root impedance and phosphorous availability stunt root and shoot growth, but the effects are not additive.

In joint work on soil structure with Prof Gao we have found that biochar can alter the cracking pattern and shrinkage characteristics of lime concretion black soil. However, the e?ects of biochar on the shrinkage of lime concretion black soil are dependent on the number of wetting and drying cycles. This has important implication for soil-root interactions.
Exploitation Route We hope that we will develop new proposals within this project to take the work forward. The project will benefit others from the papers we publish and from the new contacts we make.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description We held the start-up project workshop at the CAU campus in Beijing on 31/07-02/08/2017. The entire project team was present including Delta-T Devices who supported the initial project proposal. Outcomes: 1. We have established a soil column system to screen crop cultivars for their ability to take up nitrate. 2. We will construct and instrument rhizotrons at RRes. This will include ERT imaging (Binley, Lancaster), nitrate sensing (Miller, JIC), soil density measurement (Ren, CAU) and we will grow an intercropped maize-soybean experiment with a visiting student from Shen's group (CAU). This work has now started and the experiment was shown at the "Rothamsted Festival of Ideas" public event at RRes (23-24/06/2018). 3. Zhang (CAU) received the Chinese Scholarship Scheme, and is now spending 18 months with Whalley's soil physics group at RRes. This exchange has been made possible by this Partnering Award. 4. Weida Gao (CAU) visited RRes in December 2018 to develop ideas on measuring soil structure. 5. The team submitted an outline proposal for the GCRF Hubs call. Unfortunately, this did not progress to stage 2. 6. Gregory (RRes) attended a Workshop on Green Development in Agriculture at CAU (23-27/04/2018), in part organised by Shen (CAU), to continue collaborations in rhizosphere research.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal

Description GCRF-IAA investments
Amount £9,000 (GBP)
Funding ID S6168 
Organisation Rothamsted Research 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2018 
End 02/2018
Description Strenghtened community links between UK and China 
Organisation Delta T Devices Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution This project is highly synergistic with Designing Future Wheat Project (BBSRC) and the ASSIST project (NERC/BBSRC). We are contributiing expertise on soil physicla measurements and root growth.
Collaborator Contribution Professor Ren (CAU, Beijing) works on sensors for soil heat, water, density, and water flux, Professor Shen (CAU, Beijing) works on root responses to soil nutrient conditions Dr. Miller (JIC) works on soil nutrient sensing technology, Professor Binley (Lancaster) has been applying geophysical methods to sense the rhizosphere conditions, Dr. Whalley (RRes) works on the measurement of matric potential of soil water, measurement and monitoring of soil penetrometer resistance. Dick Jenkins (Delta-T devices) attended the start-up workshop and supplied water content sensors to the project
Impact 1. Outline proposal to GCRF hub call. 2. A poster at the "International Workshop of Soil Physics and the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water", which was held in Shenyang, China in August 2017. "Soil Thermal Conductivity and Penetrometer Resistance in Rhizosphere and Bulk Soil" 3. Ms Wencan Zang has won a Chinese Scholarship to spend 18months at Rothamsted. 4. Xin Wang, a PhD student from China Agriculture University, has been researching the effects of the rhizosphere conditions on root and shoot elongation at Rothamsted. This placement was party funded by this partnering award, China Agriculture University and project BBS/OS/NW/000004
Start Year 2017