Danforth Plant Science Center and Valent BioSciences to collaborate in unique root science initiative
Jul. 13, 2016
"We are pleased to be entering into this agreement with a partner that has such demonstrated success in plant science innovation,” said James Carrington, Ph.D., president of the Danforth Plant Science Center. "We view our imaging work as a potentially game-changing technology that warrants a collaborator with a global view and a full complement of proven, effective technologies to help us improve the human condition through plant science. VBC was our first choice."
Until now, the only way for plant scientists to observe in-field root development has been to extract them from the soil. For the first time, today's advanced imaging technology allows real-time data gathering in a way that is non-destructive and non-disruptive to future plant development.
The agreement is designed to maximize outcome potential by intersecting core competencies from within the two organizations. The Danforth Center focuses on discoveries and technologies for improving agricultural productivity with minimal environmental impact including new research on non-destructive imaging technology for root growth dynamics. Over the last two years, VBC has made sizeable commitments to rhizosphere technologies including the acquisition of Mycorrhizal Applications, LLC (MA) and several licensing and research agreements designed to accelerate its root zone portfolio.
"It was an honor to be approached by the Danforth Center as a collaborator for this significant body of work," said Dr. Warren Shafer, Vice President of R&D and Regulatory Affairs for Valent BioSciences. "There is an obvious overlap in mission and purpose between the two organizations, and our knowledge and respective technologies are clearly complementary. Together, they hold tremendous potential for our stakeholders."
Danforth Center Principal Investigator Chris Topp, Ph.D., was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to support his work combining root phenotyping technologies with computational analysis, quantitative genetics and molecular biology to understand root growth and physiology. The NSF and VBC agreements will jointly fund a large-scale X-ray imaging system for non-invasive root measurements, the first of its kind dedicated for plant science in the U.S. academic research sector.
Through MA and SyMyco Inc., a joint venture in which MA participates, VBC brings the world's foremost experts in the study and propagation of mycorrhizae – beneficial fungi that colonize plant roots to enhance nutrient uptake and water efficiency. VBC also has research agreements in place with BioMar, LidoChem, and Rhizobacter, all established leaders in emerging biorational technology for the rhizosphere and beyond.
Advanced Root Imaging Technology
In addition to measuring root growth in soil, another utility of X-ray imaging is that it can be used to image and measure the whole of any complicated structure, including data on its internal anatomy. In this video, optical 2D dimensional slices of the X-ray CT reconstruction are shown along 2-planes that highlight the geometry, topology, and internal organization of a maize root.
Displayed is a mature maize / corn root crown that has been excavated with a shovel and imaged using X-ray Computed Tomography (XRT or X-ray CT). The root crown (the portion of the root system interfacing just above and just below the soil), represents an information-rich sample since all of the major root axes of the plant originate here. Analysis of the root crown provides valuable data about the likely structure of the root system far below the soil surface, which is much more difficult to capture. Even with 3D imaging, measuring complicated structures such as root crowns is difficult. Typically, hand measurements or 2D images are used, but fail to capture all of the available information and thus may lack robust phenotypic information.
About the Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
About Mycorrhizal Applications, LLC
Headquartered in Grants Pass, OR, Mycorrhizal Applications LLC (MA) grows mycorrhizal seeds, or “spores,” used to produce mycorrhizal plants that improve soil health and increase nutrient and water uptake and efficiency. Working hand-in hand with the forestry, agricultural, ornamental, turf, and nursery industries, MA prides itself in its commitment to sustainability, customer service, and quality products based on and sound science. For additional information, visit the company’s website at http://mycorrhizae.com.
About SyMyco Inc.
SyMyco was founded in 2010 and is headquartered at the Bio-Research and Development Growth Park at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis; SyMyco research and production are focused on mycorrhizal fungi which expand a plant’s roots by adding thousands of absorbing fungal hyphae. These fungi play a critical role in the health and productivity of 90 percent of plant species in natural areas and form with most major crop species and also reduce the need for water and chemical fertilizers. For more information, visit the company’s website at http://www.symyco.com.
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