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Root-TRAPR: a modular plant growth device to visualize root development and monitor growth parameters, as applied to an elicitor response of Cannabis sativa

Suwanchaikasem, P., Idnurm, A., Selby-Pham, J., Walker, R. and Boughton, B.A.ORCID: 0000-0001-6342-9814 (2022) Root-TRAPR: a modular plant growth device to visualize root development and monitor growth parameters, as applied to an elicitor response of Cannabis sativa. Plant Methods, 18 (1). Art. 46.

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Abstract

Background
Plant growth devices, for example, rhizoponics, rhizoboxes, and ecosystem fabrication (EcoFAB), have been developed to facilitate studies of plant root morphology and plant-microbe interactions in controlled laboratory settings. However, several of these designs are suitable only for studying small model plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana and Brachypodium distachyon and therefore require modification to be extended to larger plant species like crop plants. In addition, specific tools and technical skills needed for fabricating these devices may not be available to researchers. Hence, this study aimed to establish an alternative protocol to generate a larger, modular and reusable plant growth device based on different available resources.

Results
Root-TRAPR (Root-Transparent, Reusable, Affordable three-dimensional Printed Rhizo-hydroponic) system was successfully developed. It consists of two main parts, an internal root growth chamber and an external structural frame. The internal root growth chamber comprises a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) gasket, microscope slide and acrylic sheet, while the external frame is printed from a three-dimensional (3D) printer and secured with nylon screws. To test the efficiency and applicability of the system, industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) was grown with or without exposure to chitosan, a well-known plant elicitor used for stimulating plant defense. Plant root morphology was detected in the system, and plant tissues were easily collected and processed to examine plant biological responses. Upon chitosan treatment, chitinase and peroxidase activities increased in root tissues (1.7- and 2.3-fold, respectively) and exudates (7.2- and 21.6-fold, respectively). In addition, root to shoot ratio of phytohormone contents were increased in response to chitosan. Within 2 weeks of observation, hemp plants exhibited dwarf growth in the Root-TRAPR system, easing plant handling and allowing increased replication under limited growing space.

Conclusion
The Root-TRAPR system facilitates the exploration of root morphology and root exudate of C. sativa under controlled conditions and at a smaller scale. The device is easy to fabricate and applicable for investigating plant responses toward elicitor challenge. In addition, this fabrication protocol is adaptable to study other plants and can be applied to investigate plant physiology in different biological contexts, such as plant responses against biotic and abiotic stresses.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Australian National Phenome Center
Publisher: BioMed Central
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/64550
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