Back to Roots: protecting plants from salt stress with synthetic microbial communities
Soil salinization is a problem in agriculture which leads to drops in crop yield. One way to mitigate this problem is to use the soil-bound microbes. By sourcing from harsh habitats, such as deserts, we can create combinations of bacteria that colonize the roots of crops such as tomato and help the plant better deal with the detrimental effects of a high saline environment.
The soil harbors many thousands of bacteria and screening all these and combinations thereof quickly becomes unfeasible, at least, with traditional methods. However, NPEC – as a high phenotyping platform – offers exactly the right kind of screening needed for these types of project. Not only does it allow for large scale experiments, the state-of-the-art imaging and climate control facilities permit for incredibly precise monitoring and data acquisition of the entire growing process. This in conjunction with the high-throughput nature of the system means that researchers are, in effect, getting both more and better data. This of course leads to better conclusions, which leads to better and more efficient research. That is aim and the way NPEC is being put to use in this project. We are attempting to screen multiple promising so-called synthetic microbial communities and how they help protect plants (in our case tomato) against salt stress. The technology at NPEC allows us to do this at a scale and level of precision that would be difficult if not impossible to do with traditional, i.e. manual, methods.
The NPEC greenhouse was used for this project. Tomato plants were grown inside one of the plant-to-sensor compartments. Plants were imaged on a regular basis with the Maxi-Marvin, CropReporter and SideView RGB camera systems.
Experiments were designed out by Lucas Schmitz. The experiments were prepared and carried out by Lucas Schmitz. Data processing and analysis were also carried out by Lucas Schmitz.