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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Specialized Plant Growth Chamber Designs to Study Complex Rhizosphere Interactions.

  • Author(s): Yee, Mon Oo;
  • Kim, Peter;
  • Li, Yifan;
  • Singh, Anup K;
  • Northen, Trent R;
  • Chakraborty, Romy
  • et al.

The rhizosphere is a dynamic ecosystem shaped by complex interactions between plant roots, soil, microbial communities and other micro- and macro-fauna. Although studied for decades, critical gaps exist in the study of plant roots, the rhizosphere microbiome and the soil system surrounding roots, partly due to the challenges associated with measuring and parsing these spatiotemporal interactions in complex heterogeneous systems such as soil. To overcome the challenges associated with in situ study of rhizosphere interactions, specialized plant growth chamber systems have been developed that mimic the natural growth environment. This review discusses the currently available lab-based systems ranging from widely known rhizotrons to other emerging devices designed to allow continuous monitoring and non-destructive sampling of the rhizosphere ecosystems in real-time throughout the developmental stages of a plant. We categorize them based on the major rhizosphere processes it addresses and identify their unique challenges as well as advantages. We find that while some design elements are shared among different systems (e.g., size exclusion membranes), most of the systems are bespoke and speaks to the intricacies and specialization involved in unraveling the details of rhizosphere processes. We also discuss what we describe as the next generation of growth chamber employing the latest technology as well as the current barriers they face. We conclude with a perspective on the current knowledge gaps in the rhizosphere which can be filled by innovative chamber designs.

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