Plants grown in a microscope reveal root development

Help

Plants have been grown inside a microscope to allow scientists to watch their roots developing in 3D.

The researchers from Goethe Universitat Frankfurt am Main, Germany, were able to capture the formation of new lateral roots by tracking the movements of cells over more than three days.

They grew thale cress, Arabidopsis thaliana, in chambers placed inside fluorescence microscopes, which detect emissions of light. The plants were genetically engineered to contain special proteins which could be illuminated and photographed.

The new technique allows a plant's root production to be observed without damaging its delicate structures.

"With the growth conditions under our control, we can explore how roots respond to different environmental conditions," Professor Ernst Stelzer, from the research team, said.

"This could help plant breeders to select crops which are more resistant to drought or flooding."

The findings are being presented at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting.

Join BBC Nature on Facebook and Twitter @BBCNature.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.