Plant phenotyping facility


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Progress in imaging and robotics technologies improves our ability to capture ever more and finer details of root morphology at high throughput. The bottleneck in most root phenotyping pipelines remains the realtime automated extraction of biological information from thousands of raw images.
In the UCL aeroponics platform, roots growing unimpeded can be accessed non-invasively. With backlight illumination, sharp images are produced on 1000 plants with a 2-hr time resolution. The short displacement of roots in one time lapse makes it possible to track the progression of root tips during more than two weeks. 

Thanks to our image analysis pipeline, we are able to assess the following root traits. This list is non-exhaustive and is in constant evolution as image analysis evolves.

- Maximum root length (cm)

- Primary root elongation rate (

- Embryonic roots number (nb of tips)

- Lateral root density (nb of of branched embryonic root)

- Root angle between 2 first pair of seminals (° or rad)

- Mean/mode/median diameter (embryonic roots, lateral roots & all roots, cm)

- Convex hull area (cm2)


List of EPPN2020 projects hosted in the RootPhAir platform:

- Root phenotyping for better growth and Fe nutrition in soybean (Glycine max L.), November 2018: 51 genotypes of soybean were grown with iron-free medium. Foliar application of iron was done in the form of standard or novel Fe chelators. The plants have been assessed for iron deficiency symptoms. Effects on the root part will be assessed thanks to the aeroponic facility.

- Association of roots with grain yield under variable moisture availability in winter and spring wheat, April 2019: Two panels of 50 winter wheat and 50 spring wheat were phenotyped jointly in the platform. Root traits extracted from the experiment will be put in relation with the performance of the genotypes assessed in the field under drought conditions.


- In depth phenotyping for drought tolerance-related root traits in a lentil RIL population, July 2019: The population was composed of of 130 recombinant inbred lines, 28 landraces and 7 wild progenitors. The objective is to better understand the genetic variability and heritability of root traits related to drought tolerance in cultivated lentils, and to find and DNA markers associated with these traits.

- Root phenotyping of Mediterranean durum wheat in contrasted nitrogen environments, August-December 2019: A panel of 220 durum wheat accessions representing the major durum gene pools adapted to the Mediterranean environments were tested in two different nitrogen concentrations. The root phenotyping data of this experiment will be used to identify QTLs associated with better nitrogen and water use efficiency.


Access to the RootPhAir facility at UCL is supported by the EU project EPPN2020.