What is eco-phenotyping?
A plant’s phenotype represents a composite of all of its observable characteristics or traits. This phenotype is a product of its own genetic makeup - the genotype - and the biotic and abiotic environmental conditions it encounters.
At NPEC we refer to plant phenotyping as a set of methodologies and protocols that are used to measure plant growth, architecture, and composition:
- With a high level of accuracy and precision
- At different scales of organization
- From organs to canopies
As it is increasingly being appreciated that in addition to abiotic conditions, also biological interactions determine a plant’s phenotype, we include an ecological perspective in plant phenotyping: eco-phenotyping. We thus seek to track the plant phenotype as it is influenced by interactions with other plants, microbes and other organisms, thereby providing a much more realistic perspective.
For this, NPEC also offers specific facilities to study the plant microbiome; the bacterial and fungal populations that colonize plants both above- and belowground. Hight throughput analyses can be performed to characterize the plant microbiome, and in highly sophisticated ecotrons, the interaction of these micro-organisms with its host plants can be studied in great detail. Such ecotrons allow for tight control of the abiotic conditions in plant experiences, allowing plant phenotyping under ecological relevant conditions: eco-phenotyping.