The Hidden Half of Plants – A Conversation with Christophe on Root Physiology

Hunter Weber

April 10, 2023 at 3:36 pm | Updated April 10, 2023 at 3:36 pm | 3 min read

Plant researchers have long been fascinated by the hidden half of plants – their root systems. Roots are critical to plant growth and survival, but their functioning is often overlooked. That’s why we were thrilled to speak with Christophe Jourdan, an experienced researcher with almost 30 years of expertise in root physiology. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the world of root physiology with Christophe and explore some of his latest findings using the CI-600 In-Situ Root Imager.

Background and Current Work

Christophe’s journey into root physiology research began in 1992 when he started working on the ecophysiology of oil palm root systems in the Ivory Coast. Since then, he has continued to study root growth, mortality, and decay, with a current focus on deep root functioning. He uses observation devices and dynamic monitoring to understand what’s happening several meters below the soil surface.

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Challenges and Overcoming Them

As with any research, Christophe has faced challenges along the way. One of his significant challenges was implementing observation devices in conditions similar to those on the topsoil. He overcame this challenge by building secure and ventilated wells to enable safe fine root observation. He advises other researchers to build secure and well-ventilated wells to observe root systems accurately.

Findings and Their Implications

Christophe’s research has yielded some exciting findings regarding root growth dynamics, mortality, root exudations, and weathering processes enhanced by deep roots. One of his most significant findings was that deep roots are relatively scarce but elongate much more than shallow ones, bringing more carbon to deep soil layers than expected. This has important implications for understanding belowground carbon storage and release into the soil.

The Role of Research in Addressing Global Challenges

We understand research’s critical role in addressing global challenges like climate change and sustainable agriculture. Christophe envisions research as a prerequisite for an applied and sustainable response to these challenges. His work on root physiology is essential for understanding and addressing the impacts of climate change and ensuring sustainable agricultural practices.

Working with the CI-600 In-Situ Root Imager

Christophe’s work on root physiology requires accurate and reliable observation of root growth dynamics, phenology, and mortality. To accomplish this, he regularly uses the CI-600 Root Imager for dynamic root growth monitoring and has four for research and teaching purposes in different countries. However, when he first started his observations on the root dynamics of coffee trees in Costa Rica, he faced a significant challenge – choosing the right instrument for his research.
At that time, the CI-600 competed directly with the Bartz Technology camera. While both instruments had advantages, Christophe chose the CI-600 because of its larger observation area. This metric was critical for his research as he needed to accurately monitor the growth of fine roots, which are often difficult to see with smaller observation areas.


At CID Bio-Science, we are grateful to have spoken with Christophe and learned about his fascinating work in root physiology research. His insights into the functioning of root systems and the implications for global challenges like climate change and sustainable agriculture are invaluable. We hope this blog post has inspired you to learn more about the critical role of root physiology in plant growth and survival.

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