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"Deeply rooted beauty"
"Biotechnology package for enhancing induced mutagenesis in barley FAO/IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP) No. 15419/R0"

Michał Słota, Iwona Szarejko, Miriam Szurman-Zubrzycka
University of Silesia in Katowice,
Faculty of Biology and Environmental
Protection, Department of Genetics,
ul. Jagiellońska 28, 40-032 Katowice

Plant jewellery. Barley seedling of 'Karat' cultivar with substrate remains applied in the system under developement

Root hidden beauty. Root system of barley seedling of 'Karat' cultivar with substrate remains applied in the system under developement

Description popularizing the research project

The most beautiful varieties of rose display marvellous colours. The most valuable tulips boast their sophistication and precisely cut petals. Clematis, Orchis, even chrysanthemums, or innumerable species of lilies do enchant when seen for the first time and any time after. Selected varieties of plants must be beautiful and complex biotechnological steps are undertaken to achieve it. Scientists and consumers also pay attention to the varieties of plants responsible for feeding human population with their ripe, big, juicy, symmetrical and firm fruits, ears of grains, cobs, or stems. Their advantages also can be assessed at first sight.
Only the roots, one could think, remain beyond the scope of attention unless they are the underground part of manioc, sweet potato or familiar carrot. As a matter of fact, marginalizing appearance of a root could be approximated to ignoring details of any animal's mouthparts, from an ant to an elephant. The comparison, although a graphic one, is still inadequate as roots, apart from providing the plant with water and mineral salts, play a number of other functions. They anchor the plant in the soil, store energy, often cooperate with bacteria and fungi to increase supply of macro- and microelements, facilitate climbing over supports, and in form of haustoria they feed on other plants. Hence the significance of roots makes them worth a closer look, in spite of difficulties associated with direct observation in natural conditions. The effort of discovering secrets of the roots is worth making. Genetic manipulations, like the ones aimed at increasing fruition or caloric value of the above the ground, edible parts of crops, in case of roots can bring more advantages: facilitate rooting in a shallow layer of soil, survive longer spells of draught or intensify symbiosis with microorganisms where the soil is barren or overexploited. And when finally the obtained mutant, one of many created in a genetic lab, seems to meet the requirements, the barley variety lives up to the name 'Carat'.


The project implemented at the Department of Genetics, University of Silesia, is a part of an international research program, Coordinated Research Project Enhancing the Efficiency of Mutagenesis through an Integrated Biotechnology Pipeline, coordinated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. The purpose of the project "Biotechnology package for enhancing induced mutagenesis in barley" aims at developing an integrated package of methods for obtaining and characterization of barley lines carrying mutations in genes associated with the development of the root system. One of the main features of regular development of plants under stress conditions is the proper development of root system, which ensures the accurate absorption of water and minerals. Selection methods in traditional plant breeding, due to the technical constraints, are based mostly on the characteristics of shoot development. A full analysis of the phenotype of root and shoot of the analyzed forms allows precise identification of the effects of mutations on morphogenesis of the plant. This has a great convenience in the selection of the preferred agronomic traits, by taking into account the role of the root in shaping the phenotype of the plant. One of the project tasks aims at developing a system for phenotypic analysis of the plant root system architecture, enabling an automatic supply of plants with the medium. The developed system enables an efficient, accurate and a highly repeatable analysis of the morphological features of the root system of cereals, allowing a comparison of their phenotype in the tested mutants and parental varieties. The regulation of cereal root morphogenesis is a complex, multistep process. Its comprehensive understanding is an important subject of basic research. In addition the project has practical importance related to the potential identification of new alleles of genes of high significance in plant breeding.


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