Project R-4892


Identifying molecular mechanisms of plant root architectural responses to excess metals, in support of plant growth improvement for safe biomass production or phytoremediation strategies. (Research)


Diffuse contamination by excess metals affects large areas worldwide, as a result of mining, industry, agriculture, traffic etc. Bringing these lands back into a sustainable use can reduce detrimental environmental, and socio-economic impacts. There are opportunities to use these contaminated lands for the production of renewable energy biomass and industrial feedstock, and this will take the pressure off agricultural soils needed for food production. High biomass producing plants are subject to the toxic effects of the metals. Although the physiology and molecular mechanisms of metal uptake, sequestration and detoxification are under intense investigation, root system development under these circumstances is poorly understood. Yet, the roots are the first contact point with the contaminants, so placement of roots is an important factor determining the metal uptake. Building further on results on root growth responses to excess metals, this project aims to identify the involvement of plant hormones. Local and systemic effects of metals on root development will be evaluated and the impact on shoot growth determined. The experiments are designed to generate knowledge that will support strategies for plant growth optimization for the purpose of (1) phytoremediation, for which root growth inhibition should be reduced to allow placement in contaminated soil patches, and (2) safe biomass production, for which root growth should be directed to less- or non-contaminated soil-patches.

Period of project

01 January 2014 - 31 December 2017