"Computer model of root growth could lead to more eco-friendly cultivation"

The way plant roots grow turns out to be surprisingly well described by a new computer model, which provides a more complete and realistic picture than previous models. The model can help cultivate plants that require less fertilization, pesticides, and watering. An international team of biologists worked on the model, and published their results this week in the journal Developmental Cell.

When uprooting a plant, the network of plant roots often looks like a unorganized web. However, plant roots grow according to a fixed pattern: a main root grows downwards, with lateral roots emerging at certain intervals. Due to different amounts of nutrients and water in the soil, a lot of variation in root systems eventually develops. The question biologists would like to answer is how the regular pattern of lateral roots arises, and why some main root cells form a lateral root.
A new computer model now allows researchers to better map and predict root growth. The model was developed by researchers from Utrecht University. Together with colleagues from Wageningen University & Research and Ghent University, they experimentally demonstrated that the predictions made by the model were correct.
The new computer model provides a much more complete and realistic picture

Before the researchers started, there were already computer models and hypotheses used to explain where along the main root a plant’s lateral roots eventually develop. “All those models fall short,” says Kirsten ten Tusscher, who led the research on the new model. “None of them fully align with the results from experiments with real plants.” The model developed by Ten Tusscher and colleagues now provides a much more complete and realistic picture.

To read the complete article, go to www.uu.nl.

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Utrecht University

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