Exploring Potato Genotypes’ Response to Drought Stress with minirhizotron: A Conversation on Research and Innovative Technology

Hunter Weber

June 27, 2023 at 3:54 pm | Updated June 27, 2023 at 3:54 pm | 5 min read

From Maverick: “I would like to thank my thesis supervisor Laurent Leport and Brice Dupuis, and also the technician with whom I work, Gaetan Riot”

In this intriguing conversation, we get an inside look into the research conducted by Maverick Gouerou, a researcher studying potato genotypes’ response to drought stress in field conditions. With the help of CID Biosciences’ non-invasive minirhizotron technology, Maverick shares how they overcame challenges to gather valuable data and insights into root growth and its correlation to yield and canopy area.

The conversation highlights the importance of collaboration between researchers and instrument manufacturers and provides a fascinating glimpse into the power of innovative technology in advancing scientific research. If you’re interested in the latest plant stress response research developments, this conversation should not be missed!

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Galen: Well, good morning here, but good evening for you, Maverick. My name is Galen. I’m the director of Applied Science at CID Bioscience and Felix Instruments. We’re excited to talk to you today and hear about your experience using our instruments for your research. Why don’t you give us all an introduction of yourself and then go into talking about the actual projects you’re working on and give us an idea of the problems you’re trying to solve?

Maverick: Yes, thank you. I’m a Ph.D. student in the second year of my Ph.D. I’m working in France and also in Switzerland with Agroscope. Our project was to assess potato genotypes’ response to drought stress in field conditions, using your non-invasive minirhizotron technology to study the root systems. We wanted to see correlations between the root growth and other parameters we measured, like yield or canopy area. We were also interested in seeing how different potato genotypes would respond to drought stress and whether any were more resistant than others. If we have more time, we will look at the root architecture and try that.

Galen: What challenges did you encounter during the project, and how did you overcome them?

Maverick: One of our biggest challenges was installing the minirhizotron tubes in the field after the potatoes had already been planted. We had to be careful not to damage the roots while installing the tubes, and we also had to contend with issues like overheating tablets and batteries losing charge quickly due to the hot sun. But we worked around these issues by installing the tubes rapidly after planting and using umbrellas to shield the tablets from rain and the sun.

Galen: How did you go about doing this installation? Because I know Many people are concerned that installing the system after planting may harm their roots if they try to auger a hole, but clearly, that’s not the case. You have found a way to ensure you are still getting root images. How did you go about installation?

Maverick: We installed them pretty quickly after planting them. At first, there were only a few roots when we started. So we tried to put one minirhizotron between two plants, hoping it would only destroy a few roots. But yes, it’s pretty complicated to be sure of that.

Galen: How did you use our instruments, and what did you learn about them in the process?

Maverick: We used the CI-600 minirhizotron technology to study the potato root systems. The minirhizotrons were easy to install because the soil was sandy, so we put the tubes up to 80cm deep into the soil without much difficulty. The RootSnap software that came with the instrument was also easy to use, but the image analysis was time-consuming, especially since we had 32 tubes in the ground and had to collect data daily. Overall, though, we found that the minirhizotron technology provided us with valuable data that we wouldn’t have been able to get through traditional methods.

Galen: Did you use any other instrumentation besides the minirhizotron technology?

Maverick: Yes, we used a variety of other instrumentation, including MRI and NMR techniques, gene expression analysis, and machine learning algorithms to analyze the data. We wanted to take a holistic approach to studying potato drought stress, so we used multiple techniques to gather data on different aspects of the plants.

Galen: That’s interesting. Can you tell me more about some other projects you’re working on?

Maverick: Sure, I’m working on a project to study how potato genotypes respond to pathogen infections. We’re interested in seeing if any genotypes are naturally resistant to certain types of pathogens and if we can identify any genetic markers associated with resistance. We’re using a combination of field experiments and molecular biology techniques to study plants.

Galen: That sounds like a vital project. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss or any upcoming events or conferences you’ll attend?

Maverick: I hope to attend the World Potato Congress in Australia in 2024, but that’s still up in the air. In the meantime, I’m continuing to work on my research and collaborate with other researchers in the field.

Galen: I appreciate you talking about our technology. I’m thrilled that it’s giving you data that you can use. I look forward to hearing from you in the future.


Key conversation takeaways:

  • The interviewee, Maverick, is a Ph.D. student researching potato resistance to drought stress using non-destructive imaging techniques.
  • He uses minirhizotrons, a technology that allows for non-destructive root imaging, to study potato root systems in a field trial in Switzerland.
  • Maverick installed the minirhizotrons after planting the potatoes due to concerns about machinery damaging the tubes and installed them at a slight angle to avoid environmental factors affecting the tubes.
  • Maverick also uses other techniques like machine learning, MRI, gene expression, and climate data to investigate potato responses to drought stress.
  • The analysis of the root images is time-consuming, but Maverick uses RootSnap! software to process them.
  • There is a need for automatic root tracing using artificial intelligence to make analyzing the images more efficient.
  • Maverick hopes to present his research at the World Potato Congress in Australia in 2024 and was previously at a Congress in Poland.
  • Maverick is impressed with the quality of the root images and happy with his decision to use minirhizotrons.
  • The interviewee, Galen, is from a company that makes minirhizotrons and is interested in the research being done with the technology.

The conversation between Galen and Maverick showcases the importance of using cutting-edge technology in scientific research. Maverick’s project on potato genotypes’ response to drought stress illustrates the value of non-invasive minirhizotron technology, which enabled the study of the root systems and their correlation to yield and canopy area.

Additionally, the challenges encountered during the project highlight the importance of collaboration between researchers and instrument manufacturers to overcome obstacles and achieve research goals. Overall, the conversation is a reminder of the power of innovation in advancing scientific knowledge and the importance of using a holistic approach to studying plant stress response.


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