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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: A Method to Separate Plant Roots from Soil and Analyze Root Surface Area

item Benjamin, Joseph
item Nielsen, David

Submitted to: Agronomy Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 21, 2002
Publication Date: July 12, 2002

Technical Abstract: Analysis of the effects of soil management practices on crop production requires a knowledge of these effects on plant roots. Much time is required to wash plant roots from soil and separate the living plant roots from organic debris and previous years' roots. We developed a root washer that can accommodate relatively large soil samples for washing. The root washer has a rotary design and will accommodate up to 24 samples (100 mm dia. by 240 mm long) at one time. We used a flat-bed scanner to digitize an image of the roots from each sample and used a grid system with commercially-available image analysis software to analyze each sample for root surface area. Comparisons were made between "dirty" samples containing the roots and all the organic debris contained in the sample and "clean" samples where the organic debris was manually removed from each sample. We found that manually separating the roots and debris was required only in very dirty samples where the amount of non-root debris was greater than 20% of the projected image area.

Last Modified: 5/5/2015
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