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Are Artificial Media Valid For Root Analysis? A Case Study Comparing Root Traits of Five Lentil Genotypes in Artificial Media versus Soil

Background: Interest in plant root systems by plant physiologists and breeders has grown in recent years as challenges compounded by global warming further increases the complexity of crop production systems. Given the difficulties of assessing roots under field conditions, work or roots are increasingly being carried out using artificial media in containers indoors. This study addresses the question of which media to use by comparing above and below ground plant growth characteristics of lentil genotypes grown under fully watered and drought conditions in both inorganic and organic media compared to soil.
Methods: Five lentil genotypes were grown indoors until flowering in these media. Above/below ground biomass was assessed in each media. Root traits were evaluated with the aid of the root program, WinRhizoTM.
Results: This study demonstrated that under fully watered and drought conditions, lentil genotypes partitioned resources to above and below ground structures differently in soil as opposed to artificial media indoors. The organic compared to the inorganic medium, had similar root traits as soil for most lentil genotypes under both moisture
levels.
Conclusions: The inorganic media cannot be recommended for lentils cultivation because plants were stunted with large root systems. Secondly, preliminary projects on below ground parameters should be carried out in artificial media to see how they compared to soil before plants are grown in artificial media.

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