Dancing Roots – The Secret of How Plants Push Through Compacted Soils

In the past we've written about research that shows plants are better at reducing soil compaction than subsoilers. But how do can they do that? Well, today's story gives us the answer courtesy of researchers at Duke University. Thanks to Robin Smith and Veronique Koch for this excellent story! Be sure to watch the roots dance in the 1:12 video at the end of the story. Duke researchers have been studying something that happens too slowly for our eyes to see. A team in biologist Philip Benfey’s lab wanted to see how plant roots burrow into the soil. So they set up a camera on rice seeds sprouting in clear gel, taking a new picture every 15 minutes for several days after germination. When they played their footage back at 15 frames per second, compressing 100 hours of growth into less than a minute, they saw that rice roots use a trick to gain their first foothold in the soil: their growing tips make corkscrew-like motions, waggling and winding in a helical path. By using their time-lapse footage, along with a root-like robot to test ideas, the researchers gained new insights into how an

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